Later On

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More about Palin’s Troopergate problem

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From The Public Record:

An Alaska woman who owns a company that processes workers’ compensation claims in the state has told an independent investigator that she was urged by the office of Gov. Sarah Palin to deny a benefits claim for Palin’s ex brother-in-law, a state trooper who was involved in an ugly divorce and child custody dispute with Palin’s sister, despite evidence that the claim appeared to be legitimate, according to state officials who were briefed about the conversation.

Murlene Wilkes, the proprietor of Harbor Adjusting Services in Anchorage, had originally denied that she was pressured by Gov. Palin’s office to deny state trooper Mike Wooten’s claim for workers compensation benefits.

But Wilkes changed her story two weeks ago when she was subpoenaed by Steven Branchflower, the former federal prosecutor who was appointed in July to probe allegations Gov. Palin, Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, abused her office by abruptly ousting Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, state officials knowledgeable about her conversation with Branchflower said.

The workers’ compensation issue is likely to be a major focus of Branchflower’s report, according to state officials knowledgeable about the course of the investigation.

Wilkes has a $1.2 million contract with the state to handle workers compensation claims. Her contract with the state was up but her firm was recently given a new contract despite the fact that there were others who provided the state with a lower bid than Wilkes’s firm. One of the other applicants who submitted a lower bid has appealed the decision.

Wilkes told Branchflower she believed it was impressed upon her from Palin’s office that she would lose the contract if she did not deny the claim, state officials knowledgeable about her testimony said.

Although Wooten did receive worker’s compensation benefits for about three months, his claim was suddenly denied and he was forced to hire a lawyer and appeal the issue, which dragged on for more than six months. It’s unknown if Wilkes played any role in denying Wooten worker’s compensation benefits.

According to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents Wooten and other state troopers, Wooten was approved for workers compensation benefits in January 2007. He filed for benefits due to a back injury he suffered when he pulled a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement.  …

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2008 at 12:15 pm

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