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Gov. Parnell failed as Guard chief; special prosecutor needed

  • Author: Jim Babb
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published October 4, 2014

Is Gov. Parnell, commander in chief of Alaska?s National Guard, grossly derelict in his duties? Or is he almost criminally negligent in his responsibilities in a state that constitutionally mandates that the buck indeed stops at his office, in mostly all things? Is it malfeasance or misfeasance? Or was it and is it just a continuing cover-up?

The series of stories on the guard scandal in Alaska Dispatch News shed a lot of light on what I believe is the most sordid affair I?ve seen in Alaska in 50 years. But not enough heat. Only the appointment of a special prosecutor can bring necessary heat by pursuing those questions.

The governor, after almost five years of trying to shove this mess under the rug, finally appointed someone to look into it, an Air National Guard general from Connecticut. Well and good. Gen. Mott?s record describes a fine and honorable career.

But the problem is that his investigation probably will not be completed until after the election. Meanwhile, the governor?s office claims -- while denying on Sept. 26 a Freedom of Information Act Request -- that he and his office can make no comment during a pending investigation. Under the rug again.

And, as honorable and professional as Gen. Mott may be, his whole career has been with the Air Guard. There will always be a lingering question, legitimate or not, whether he?s more interested in protecting the institution or assuring justice to its victims. Across the country, servicewomen for years have complained that the military chain of command does not give them the fair hearing they deserve.

A special prosecutor, without fear or favor, can determine who did (or didn?t) do what and when.

This mess is sordid because it deals with human beings and the harm done to them, not just legislators selling their votes for a nickel on the dollar or MacDonald?s Big Meal tickets. That kind of thing can be fixed, or a try made -- witness the "yes/no" campaign on SB 21.

And, the guard scandal is not gender-specific. Every decent Alaska man should be just as concerned as our women are. This is about our wives, daughters, sisters and others whom we claim to love.

Parnell claims to know that the buck stops at his desk, but I wonder if he really understands that. President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk reminding him that he was responsible. For too long, Parnell might as well have had a bowl full of mushrooms on his desk, more reflective of just keeping the public in the dark and feeding them nonsense. He's hidden behind a thin veil woven with too many threads of pious platitudes called "Choose Respect."

He even went so far as to attempt to blame the lack of action on Alaska?s congressional delegation. That is not only crass, but contemptible.

The governor should follow his own program and choose respect, for himself and all Alaskans, by appointing a special prosecutor. Some might say, as the governor and others in his office have inferred, that this suggestion is politically motivated. To some extent it might be. I don?t want to have a governor who says that getting his oil tax bill through the Legislature "distracted" him from giving this scandal the attention it demanded.

But even if a special prosecutor was appointed, even that investigation likely would not be completed until after the election just a month away, and the report probably not issued until even later. It is the governor who is playing politics by making every effort to insure that the facts will not surface, will be kept under the rug, until too late to do him any political harm.

Jim Babb is a former newspaperman who was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for the Anchorage Daily News in 1976. He has been a practicing lawyer for the last 30 years.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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