From NBC's Aram Roston
ANCHORAGE, AK -- A key witness in the Alaska State Senate Ethics investigation of Gov. Palin has backed out of testifying today, the state senator in charge of the investigation tells NBC News. The senator -- Democrat Hollis French -- says Frank Bailey's decision not to testify will slow down the "Troopergate" investigation into the current candidate.
The investigation centers on whether Gov. Palin abused her power when firing her commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan in July 2008. Monegan maintains he was fired, for not firing another man in his command -- Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten -- Gov. Palin's ex-brother in law who, years earlier, went through a messy divorce with her sister.
Frank Bailey, a member of Palin's administration, was caught on tape in August 2008 on a phone call with another trooper in which he questioned why Wooten was still on staff, seemingly speaking on behalf of Palin. The release of this tape proved embarrassing for Palin, who was forced to backtrack on her earlier statements, in which she had maintained neither she, nor her family, nor staff, ever pressured Monegan or anyone else to fire Wooten.
Bailey was put on paid leave from the administration following the release of that tape.
Since becoming the VP nominee, Palin has challenged jurisdiction of the ethics investigation. Bailey cites that jurisdictional uncertainty as his reason for not testifying.
State Sen. French says no one in the investigation, including Bailey and Gov. Palin, was subpoenaed to testify because all had previously agreed to cooperate voluntarily.