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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan September 9, 2008

However, loyalty was the overriding issue

A chain e-mail making the rounds claims to offer an insider's look at Sarah Palin during her days as mayor of Wasilla. The copy of the e-mail we've received is genuine. It was written by Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny, a homemaker and longtime observer of Wasilla municipal government.

Kilkenny makes numerous factual claims in her e-mail. ( Read it for yourself here. ) Here, we are checking her statement that Palin "fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he 'intimidated' her, she told the press."

There is no doubt that Palin fired the top cop of Wasilla in early 1997, a few months after taking office. Multiple news reports and a federal lawsuit confirm this.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Palin delivered letters to Police Chief Irl Stambaugh and City Librarian Mary Ellen Emmons on Jan. 30, 1997, saying their employment with the city would end. The reports said Palin took the action because she felt the two did not fully support the changes that she wanted to make as the newly elected mayor. Both Stambaugh and Emmons had publicly supported Palin's political opponent, incumbent mayor John Stein, in the 1996 mayoral campaign, the reports noted.

The day after notifying them of their dismissals, however, Palin changed her mind about the city librarian and allowed her to stay.

She did not change her mind about Stambaugh, though. He decided to sue the city in federal court for wrongful termination.

Palin wrote a memo to Stambaugh and his attorney on Feb. 7, 1997, outlining in greater specificity the reasons she fired Stambaugh. The memo, stamped "confidential," is part of the case file from the lawsuit, portions of which the Seattle Times posted online after Palin was named the Republican vice presidential nominee.

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Palin reiterates in the memo that she did not feel like she had Stambaugh's "full support" after working with him for 3 months. She outlined a number of instances in which he either disagreed with her or was reluctant to implement her directions.

According to Palin's memo, Stambaugh refused to search his budget for areas to be cut. He also was reluctant to provide her with weekly memos on "positive things" that were happening in his department. He failed to tell her about a meeting that she had been expected to attend. He spoke with a "disrespectful and condescending" tone at staff meetings.

"When I met you in private," Palin wrote, "instead of engaging in interactive conversation with me, you gave me short, uncommunicative answers and then you would sit there and stare at me in silence with a very stern look, like you were trying to intimidate me."

Stambaugh's lawsuit was not successful, because the court found Palin had the right to terminate Stambaugh for any reason she wished.

The e-mail says Palin "fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he 'intimidated' her, she told the press." Not all of Wasilla's press coverage from that time (particularly the archives of Wasilla's newspapaper The Frontiersman ) is available online, so we can't say for sure that Palin did or did not say that. Palin's memo from the lawsuit is convincing evidence that she felt Stambaugh tried to intimidate her.

The main reason Palin fired Stambaugh appears to be for issues of loyalty and support, as outlined in her memo, but it also specifically mentions intimidation. We find the statement that Palin fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he 'intimidated' her to be Mostly True.


Our Sources

Anchorage Daily News, "Wasilla mayor fires police, library chiefs," Jan. 31, 1997

Anchorage Daily News, "Wasilla keeps librarian, but police chief is out," Feb. 1, 1997

Anchorage Daily News, "Judge backs chief's firing, Wasilla mayor within rights," March 1, 2000

Seattle Times, Sarah Palin had turbulent first year as mayor of Alaska town , Sept. 7, 2008


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