By Aram Roston and Amna Nawaz, NBC News producers
The GOP candidate for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, may be facing yet another ethics investigation back in her home state of Alaska. An ethics complaint obtained by NBC News was filed Wednesday by the police officers union in Alaska, requesting a probe into possible wrongdoing by the governor or her office. It was brought on behalf of state trooper Mike Wooten, an ex-brother-in-law of Palin who is at the center of the “Troopergate” scandal.
The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have have improperly disclosed information from Wooten’s personnel records. The complaint alleges “criminal penalties may apply.”
John Cyr, director of the union that filed the complaint, told NBC News, “It seems obvious to us somebody has improperly accessed [Wooten’s] personnel file.”
The McCain/Palin campaign Thursday launched a spirited defense when contacted by NBC News. They say the personnel files were not protected; a campaign source says Wooten himself had previously signed a waiver allowing a divorce lawyer to obtain his personnel records. The campaign then sent a copy of that waiver to NBC News, which reads “I hereby waive any privilege I may have to said information to said attorneys.”
The issue concerns disclosures about Wooten’s records made by a Palin aide – Frank Bailey – in a February 2008 phone conversation. The police officers’ union complaint claims the transcript of that conversation clearly indicates there was improper access to Wooten’s records.
The McCain/Palin campaign, in a response to NBC News, provided a family twist to the story, saying the governor’s husband – Todd Palin – was the source of that information to Bailey. They say the information came from divorce proceedings, and that Gov. Palin never improperly accessed any records.
Taylor Griffiths, a spokesman for McCain, said “When you’re a real reformer like Sarah Palin, who isn’t afraid to take on entrenched political interests, scurrilous attacks and empty allegations come with the territory.”