On Friday morning, the Alaska Democratic Party put out a release about the Alaska Senate Majority’s hiring of McHugh Pierre on the communications team. Pierre was formerly the civilian deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, The release was basically a reminder that Gov. Sean Parnell asked for Pierre’s resignation in the midst of the ongoing National Guard scandal, after it was reported that Pierre allegedly intervened for a soldier and a friend accused of sexual harassment and assault.
Senate President Kevin Meyer made the decision to hire Pierre, who will be paid around $30,000 for a four-month contract, less than what the Democrats say in the press release. Pierre will be replacing a full-time staffer in the majority’s communications office.
Meyer defended the hire. He interviewed several people and Pierre was the most qualified, he said. Pierre told Meyer that he did nothing wrong, and Meyer believes that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” He stressed that Pierre is on an at-will contract that can terminate at any time.
Meyer’s chief of staff, Suzanne Armstrong, is good friends with Pierre. Pierre’s wife. Lauren, is Sen. Anna MacKinnon’s chief of staff. Meyer’s own wife worked with Pierre at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Pierre’s father-in-law was the deputy commissioner of DMVA before moving to the Alaska Aerospace Corp.
Meyer admitted that Pierre was well known to many in the Capitol building, but he said that it made the hire easier. “I felt comfortable hiring him. I knew his talents and abilities, especially as a communications person,” he said.
Here’s the Democrat’s release:
Alaska’s Republican Senate caucus will pay McHugh Pierre approximately $10,000 per month during the upcoming legislative session even after Pierre had to resign in disgrace over the National Guard scandal. Pierre got caught protecting his high school friend from punishment after that individual used drugs and committed sexual harassment during his tenure as a National Guard recruiter.
GOP Senator Kevin Meyer said there’s “no indication Pierre did anything wrong,” despite reports to the contrary. In the fall, Alaska media reported on Pierre’s decision to defend a perpetrator of sexual harassment and other misconduct. When Pierre resigned in September, the Alaska Dispatch News reported:
“Documents obtained by Alaska Dispatch News show that Pierre inserted himself into one of the inquiries into the alleged sexual misconduct of a married recruiter, an incident of which Parnell’s office was aware.
The recruiter, a high school classmate of Pierre’s from the late 1990s, was also accused of sexual harassment, of mistreating junior enlisted soldiers, of possessing steroids and committing assault. In June 2014, Cindy Sims, a senior staffer and close aide to the governor, received an email detailing the situation with this and dozens of other soldiers.
The document notes that this soldier, whose name has been withheld since no criminal charges were ever filed, was recommended for removal from his full-time position and to be separated from the service with “other than honorable discharge.” Nothing came of it, apparently, after Pierre gave input to Katkus and the assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Leon Bridges.
After Pierre came forward, Bridges took over the case. He was to impose an action of General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand and a rank reduction of one grade, but the process — convening a board to review the discipline recommendations and then take action — has not moved forward.
State Senator Kevin Meyer announced the hire. Like Pierre, Meyer’s wife worked closely with Tom Katkus during Katkus’ tenure as National Guard TAG. Meyer has said that Pierre won’t work on National Guard issues, yet Pierre himself said that he’d be happy to offer his “insights” to legislators about the Guard scandal.”