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Palin plays direct role in charging rape victems for exams

Jacob Alperin-Sheriff-Sept. 11, 2008-Huff

Despite denials by the Palin campaign, new evidence proves that as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin had a direct hand in imposing fees to pay for post-sexual assault medical exams conducted by the city to gather evidence.

Palin's role is now confirmed by Wasilla City budget documents available online.

Under Sarah Palin's administration, Wasilla cut funds that had previously paid for the medical exams and began charging victims or their health insurers the $500 to $1200 fees. Although Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella wrote USA Today earlier this week that the GOP vice presidential nominee "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test...To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice," Palin, as mayor, fired police chief Irl Stambaugh and replaced him with Charlie Fannon, who with Palin's knowledge, slashed the budget for the exams and began charging the city's victims of sexual assault. The city budget documents demonstrate Palin read and signed off on the new budget. A year later, alarmed Alaska lawmakers passed legislation outlawing the practice.

News of the controversial policy has leaked slowly into the press this week as the presidential campaign has heated up and Palin's record has been subject to increasing scrutiny. The practice of charging rape victims has called into question Palin's stated commitment to women's issues, her judgment as an executive and her honesty about her record.

The story of the Wasilla policy has made its way from comments on Daily Kos to the pages of USA Today. But clear evidence suggesting Palin knew Wasilla was charging the victims of sexual assault has been hard to find. Placing the city budget records, however, alongside a timetable of Palin's firing Chief Stambaugh and hiring Chief Fannon makes it clear the policy was put in place as a direct result of Palin's leadership.

The mayor of Wasilla before Sarah Palin, John C. Stein, was also a Republican, though the office was and continues to be non-partisan. Mayor Stein was defeated by Sarah Palin in a campaign that brought in the NRA, Republican partisans, and a whisper campaign that Mayor Stein was Jewish (he is a Christian, but is "proud of such a reputation"). He now runs the Sitka Sound Science Center, a marine research facility in Sitka, Alaska.

Mayor Stein told OffTheBus that he didn't "think victims were billed while [he] was mayor," but that he wasn't certain. He did mention that "Wasilla participated in establishing a Sexual Assault Response Team to set-up a one-stop forensic exam room for victims," evidence of a pro-victim police department. In order to confirm his assertion about the billing policy, he recommended I contact current police chief Angella Long for confirmation. She did not return my request for comment.

However, I was able to eventually track down Irl Stambaugh, police chief of Wasilla from the founding of the department until Sarah Palin fired him for "not fully supporting her efforts to govern." Stambaugh sued for breach of contract, but lost when a federal judge ruled that "police chiefs serve at the behest of the mayor unless otherwise specified." He later served as the executive director of the Alaska Police Standards Council.

It turns out that Wasilla did not bill sexual assault victims for the cost of rape exams while Irl Stambaugh was chief of police. As chief, he had included a line item in the budget to pay for the cost of such exams. He had only just heard about the Mayor Palin/Chief Fannon policy today, and was just as shocked to hear about it as I was.

Checking the budget confirmed former Chief Stambaugh's claim. He had included a contingency of $15,000 in his budget for the department's 1st year of existence (1993-1994), $5,000 for 1994-1995 and 1995-1996, and $13,000 for his final year as police chief in 1996-1997, spending $11,625.

Duwayne Charles Fannon, his replacement, halved the budget request in 1997-1998, with a request of $7,298, spending $3,454. However, it seems he began the "victim pays" policy in the 1998-1999 fiscal year. That year, he requested $3,000 but spent only $205. This data can be found in the Document Central section of Wasilla's website.

The Document for the 1998-1999 fiscal year begins with a message "To the Citizens of the City of Wasilla:"

The comprehensive annual financial report of the City of Wasilla for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1999, is hereby submitted. The City's Finance Department prepared the report. Responsibility for both the accuracy of the data, and the completeness and fairness of the presentation, including all disclosures, rests with the City. To the best of our knowledge and belief, the enclosed data is accurate in all material respects and is reported in a manner designed to fairly present the financial position and results of operations of the various funds and account groups of the City. All disclosures necessary to enable the reader to gain an understanding of the City's financial activities have been included. ...

At the end of the letter, under the words "Respectfully submitted," is the signature of Sarah Palin. Unless she made a false claim about the data being accurate to the best of her knowledge, she was aware of the change in billing policy orchestrated by Police Chief Fannon. The McCain/Palin campaign did not respond to requests for comment.


To see Palin's signature in Wasilla's 1999 Financial Report, download the full report here. [The 7-page letter written by Sarah Palin and the city's finance director as an introduction to the 1998-1999 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report makes it clear that the City of Wasilla, and hence the mayor, is responsible for oversight over the report. The letter discusses certain minor city actions, such as an extension by the city of the East Wasilla Water Main in order to serve the newly built Wal-Mart. The rest of the letter is a summary of the information contained in the report. However, it is notable that "the City of Wasilla is required to undergo an annual single audit in conformity of the Federal and State Single Audit Acts." Under the most recent amendments to that act at the time, an entity had to expend $300,000 in federal funds to be subject to the Single Audit Act; a look at page 88 of the full financial report shows the federal share of Wasilla city expenditures to have been $1,145,753, nearly $200/resident.]

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