Parnell responds to his handling of allegations of sexual abuse in the Guard

After a candidate forum on Monday, Gov. Sean Parnell answered questions about his administration’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse in Alaska’s National Guard, something that appears to have plagued the Guard for years. The problems in the Guard were reported in the media last October, and were revisited in a Sunday column by Shannyn Moore. More is likely to be revealed about the issue. For now, however, below are the allegations that I questioned Parnell about, followed by his response.

  • Allegation: Parnell waited for four years to act on allegations of a widespread culture of abuse in the Guard. In 2010, three chaplains had a meeting with Parnell to discuss the culture. Republican Sen. Fred Dyson called on Parnell three times to take action. However, it wasn’t until March 2014 that Parnell called on the federal government to conduct an official investigation into the allegations.
  • Response: Parnell said that the allegations lacked the specificity that he needed to take action. He said he met with now Adjutant General Thomas Katkus about the issue. He said he reviewed charts and spreadsheets that documented the allegations, and saw that the appropriate ones had been referred to the Anchorage Police Department and the troopers. On February 26, Republican Sen. Fred Dyson brought forth a “specific person who was able to make specific claims about what went wrong,” Parnell said. Parnell himself talked to this person, and within 24 hours, called on the feds. That investigation is expected to be complete in May. A report will follow likely sometime late summer.
  • Allegation: Parnell’s deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, McHugh Pierre, tried to get a sexual assault investigator to stay quiet and not talk to legislators about the issues in the Guard by having her sign a letter saying she wouldn’t do so. He then tried to get the Guard chaplains to sign the same letter.
  • Response: Parnell said that he was “surprised’ by the accusation. But when he looked into it, it was “less nefarious than what had been reported,” he said. Indeed, the letter in question, which you can read here, is one that went to other department employees. It says that employees should not give official statements without prior authorizations, and that although, according to the letter, “the mandate does not mean that an employee cannot reach out to one’s legislator to address a personal situation,” such contact had to take place during personal time using personal resources.

Finally, Moore reported that Mike Nizich, Parnell’s chief of staff, was using his personal email to correspond with the chaplains about the issues in the Guard. Personal emails are not subject to public information requests. Parnell said that if those emails were about state business, they should be forwarded to Nizich’s state account and will direct him to do so.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


15 thoughts on “Parnell responds to his handling of allegations of sexual abuse in the Guard

  1. Lynn Willis

    Senator Fred Dyson courageously pursued this issue while apparently his peers sat silently. How sad that perhaps the only legislator with moral courage is now leaving the legislature. Remember, Fred was influential in breaking up the Corrupt Bastards Club.
    What will save Parnell is that the only formal investigation of this issue will be a narrowly focused investigation conducted by the Federal National Guard Bureau who has no authority over any civilians or state employees. Can a National Guard Bureau investigation result in the involvement of state or federal law enforcement agencies?
    Governor Parnell has a tin ear. Any politician with a modicum of awareness and ability, even one who could care less about the impact of sexual assault on individual soldiers and unit effectiveness, would not allow an issue like this to fester.
    This is now showing all the characteristics of a classic cover up. As with the illegal hiring of legislators,now a circling of the wagons will again insure that Parnell’s appointed consigliere (known to us as the State Attorney General) and the legislative leadership will do nothing.
    We can do better Alaska…….…..

  2. Dan Fagan

    I must admit I have a different perspective on this story reading Amanda’s version over Ms. Moore’s. I do not believe for a second Mr. Parnell is anything but horrified about the sexual assault problem in Alaska. For Ms. Moore to insinuate otherwise is where she misses it.

    I agree with Amanda the Governor’s uber cautiousness can be a fault and this seems to be a perfect example. But it could also be his stubbornness.

    Keep in mind Mr. Parnell does have a stubborn streak. He illegally hired two former legislators and only backed down after intense public pressure. He also spent four times as much for a crime lab after it had been clearly documented the price paid was obscene compared to other crime labs.

  3. Mark

    Moore wants to be taken seriuosly but everytime she is caught spreading falsehoods, she claims her piece is an opinion. She spreads rumors as fact and when anyone questions her lies, they become the target. When she calls the AK National Guard a “pirate ship” she degrades an entire organization for the alledged actions/inactions of a few. She talks like a sailor, but has not Idea what it means to serve. Moore has no Idea what she is talking about and is just spewing venom for cheap political points at the expense of the innocent.

  4. Lois Drive resident

    I trust Governor Parnell.
    I do not trust those working for him. Many do not share his core values.

  5. I believe in Respect, do you?

    29 instances of sexual abuse should be some sort or bell warning with or without specifics. Governor Parnell needs to make some changes or we’ll have to as voters make changes. McHugh Pierre, despite the nature of the letter, has proven to be an arrogant and intimidating state worker. Isn’t therre any qualified veterans with real miilitary experience that could fill that job? As another commenter posted an illusion to the fact that his only qualification was that his father-in-law lined him up for the job. What other qualification did he have. Someone needs to ask the governor this. And why did Parnell promote Katkus knowing that these serious allegations existed. When the report comes back, I hope that Parnell has the courage to terminate everyone involved in covering up the sexual abuse. Iif so, there will be plenty of openings in DMVA.

  6. South Anchorage GOP Fan

    McHugh Pierre isn’t qualified to be a deputy commissioner of anything. He got the job grattis of his father-in-law who occupied the position prior to him.

  7. Milton Friedman

    In late 2013 I attended a Veterans town hall meeting hosted by Senator Wielechowski, Representative Saddler and Representative LeDoux and attended by a few other state representatives as well. In the course of the Q&A an elderly woman in the front row raised her hand to ask a question. She voiced her concern about the recent allegations concerning sexual harassment and assault in the Alaska a Guard and said she wanted to know why the Governor is doing nothing about it. Mr. McHugh Pierre immediately asked to be heard, stood up, pointed his finger right at the elderly woman and proceeded to berate her in front of the audience. He exclaimed, in a forceful and disrespectful tine, that the state takes every incident of sexual misconduct seriously and that he was sick and tired of people speaking so flippantly about things of which they know nothing and he would not let that type of talk take place if he were around. The elderly woman, obviously shaken, quieted down and her friend expressed that he was being a little harsh. To this Mr. Pierre expressed that he didn’t mean to come across so strong, but that the subject matter was one that he takes very seriously.

    The guy is not fit for an office in which he will have to deal with challenging opposing points of view. I was not impressed in a positive way beyond wondering who his personal stylist may be. Other than that…meh.

  8. Soldotna R

    Shannyn more is a joke. She has no ethics… she is an embarrassment to her colleagues that practice honest journalism. If the facts do not support her story, she will leave them out of the story…

  9. Nancy

    A lot of unanswered questions remain; however, it does appear that Ms. Moore took the opportunity to sensationalize the issue by not being totally honest with the details or by over looking the details. Following Ms. Moore’s columns, this should not be a surprise. All at the Guard may not be well. I appernor Parnell for calling for an investigation and contrary to reports he did so apparently as soon as he had specifics to report. Thanks Amanda, your reporting and clarifications helpe to more honestly portray the situation. Despite what one may feel anout the governor’s politics, he is an honest and good man.

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