Generally speaking, Gov. Sean Parnell’s loyalty is admirable. So is his unwillingness to act impulsively and be deliberative in trying to gather the facts before he makes a decision. But like all qualities, those can go horribly awry, which appears to be the case in his failure for four years to address a culture of sexual abuse that’s permeated Alaska’s National Guard.
On Sunday, Shannyn Moore added on to a story first reported by McClatchy’s Sean Cockerham about the abuses. At last count according to Cockerham’s October article, 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. So far, no one has been charged or prosecuted.
As these things go, the details and timeline can get confusing, but what is clear is that Parnell himself was told by Guard chaplains and at least one other member of the Guard about the abuses in 2010. Parnell appeared to have taken no meaningful action. He passed the issue onto his chief of staff Mike Nizich. He also subsequently promoted Thomas Katkus, who was implicated in the complaints, to adjutant general of the Guard.
According to Moore, the chaplains were directed to communicate with Nizich on his personal email, which members of the administration are known to use when they don’t want their communications subject to public information requests. That was in 2011.
Only when Republican Sen Fred Dyson got involved did Parnell take action. Still it took months and it took three visits from Dyson. According to Moore, Dyson first approached Parnell about the issue in early fall of 2013. It wasn’t until March, 2014 that Parnell took the unusual, and possibly telling, step of calling on the feds for help.
It gets worse: Parnell’s deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, McHugh Pierre, appears to have threatened, or attempted to intimidate, a sexual assault investigator into staying quiet and not talk to legislators about the issues. He then tried the same thing on the chaplains. Enter their outspoken Republican lawyer Wayne Anthony Ross. Enter a big mess.
That was nearly five months ago. Pierre still has a job.
This is clearly the biggest potential scandal that Parnell has yet encountered and could be devastating politically, as it should be, if the facts bear out what’s so far been reported.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org