Facing allegations of misconduct, the commander of the Coast Guard's sector in Anchorage was abruptly relieved from duty Monday in a personal visit with the top officer in Alaska, according to Coast Guard officials.
Capt. Mark Hamilton was temporarily relieved for "alleged misconduct and loss of confidence in the officer's ability to command," the Coast Guard said in a press release. Coast Guard officials would not immediately elaborate, saying that the matter was the subject of an internal investigation. Asked if it could involve criminal charges, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Eric Eggen said it was too soon to tell.
Hamilton, who was named to his post as Anchorage sector commander last summer, was removed from duty Monday morning pending results of the investigation after Rear Adm. Arthur E. Brooks, commander of the Coast Guard's 17th District, arrived in Anchorage.
Reached Monday night, Brooks said the investigation of Hamilton, who held the third-highest billet in the state, has been going for about a month and is likely to continue for another month or two. The investigation, conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, has produced increasing evidence of misconduct in that time, he said.
"We do have an ongoing Coast Guard investigation that had determined enough misconduct that I felt that I could no longer leave him in command," Brooks said. "I still don't know the full extent of it, or the degree of this, and so decisions on what to do and where it will ultimately go still pend. But I've reached a point where I needed to relieve him."
Brooks said he will review the results of the internal investigation and make a recommendation to the commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington D.C., who will make the final decision. The results will be released once the commandant makes a decision.
Hamilton could be reinstated to his position or permanently removed from the Coast Guard depending on the results, Eggen said.
"If he is found guilty, it's likely he will not remain with the Coast Guard," Eggen said. "We have allegations; that's all we have right now."
Several calls to Hamilton's home Monday night went unanswered.
There are two sectors in Alaska: Anchorage and Juneau. Hamilton was named commander of the Anchorage sector in July 2008, after completing an assignment as deputy commander at sector Los Angeles.
Perhaps the most visible project he has overseen in recent weeks was the removal of millions of gallons of crude oil from the Drift River terminal after it was threatened by the eruption of Mount Redoubt. Though he wouldn't comment on the investigation, Brooks did say Hamilton's removal had nothing to do with that operation.
While the investigation continues, Hamilton will work in Anchorage under the Alaska district's chief of staff, Eggen said. Capt. John S. Kenyon, the 17th District chief of prevention, has assumed temporary command of the Anchorage sector.
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