Official who tried to block 'troopergate' probe resigns

JUNEAU — Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg has resigned in the wake of state legislators blasting his performance during the "troopergate" investigation.

"He just explained that it is a tough environment right now," said Gov. Sarah Palin, who appointed Colberg to the job just over two years ago.

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News this morning, Palin said Colberg did a great job as attorney general. She talked about his background, coming from the private sector and not government, and said he served the state well.

"It is a harsh political environment right now. You saw what he went through these last couple of weeks with speculation that a couple of the lawmakers wanted to continue to grill him, a couple of the lawmakers not believing, it seems, what he had to say," Palin said. "I just hope this political environment doesn't deter others who want to make a positive difference."

Colberg sent out a brief statement saying "I determined that it was in the best interest of the state of Alaska to move on and pursue other opportunities. It was an honor to serve for the past two years."

Colberg has been at the center of controversy over his handling of the so-called "Troopergate" investigation. Two weeks ago, he was grilled and sharply criticized by legislators for trying to block legislative subpoenas to state officials during the inquiry into whether Palin abused power in complaints against a state trooper and her dismissal of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

The state Senate on Friday found the governor's husband, Todd, and nine Palin aides in contempt for failing to show up when ordered by subpoena to testify in the Legislature's "Troopergate" investigation. Todd Palin and the rest did eventually submit written statements to the investigator, so the Senate said no punishment of them was warranted.

But Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, had left open the possibility of future action against the state attorney general.

"I don't want to get sidetracked by the attorney general's performance in this episode, but it's worth pointing out that this resolution does not resolve questions -- significant and serious questions -- about his actions during this time," French said Friday on the Senate floor.

Palin said she supports how Colberg handled the issue and did not have concerns with how he was doing his job.

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said the resignation was submitted Monday night and was effective immediately.

The statement from the governor's office quoted Palin as saying, "Talis is a highly intelligent, thoughtful and reserved scholar who brought considerable legal knowledge and great personal integrity to the position. I appreciate his willingness to serve, and as the search for a new attorney general begins, I will look for someone with the same strong moral character as Talis. I wish him well in his future endeavors."

Colberg was an attorney in a small private practice in Palmer before being appointed by Palin shortly after she took office in 2006.