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Parnell for governor? Choose reject

  • Author: Shannyn Moore
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published November 1, 2014

In the case of the Alaska National Guard corruption and sexual abuse scandal, it's fascinating to watch the cover-up of the cover-up play out.

Gov. Sean Parnell is pulling out all the stops in his efforts to avoid releasing documents showing that, beginning four long years ago, he ignored warnings and pleas for help from chaplains, military officers, sexual assault victims and retired guard members. He waited for three years -- until February of this year -- to ask for an investigation by the federal National Guard Bureau, and he did that only after learning that an inquiry would be launched whether he asked for one or not.

April was when I wrote a column laying out the timeline of the alleged abuses and the governor's failure to act. At the time, Parnell defended his inaction by saying he lacked the "specifics" to ask for or initiate an investigation. (You know the governor is commander in chief of the guard, and boss of the attorney general and the Alaska State Troopers, right?)

In a recent radio interview, the governor intimated that it was he who asked the FBI to investigate the sexual abuse allegations. We're asked to believe that he didn't have the juice to launch a state investigation of the organization he commanded, but was able to dispatch the FBI to look into the allegations?

What exactly did he ask the FBI to investigate? According to the chaplains, complaining officers and victims, not one of them was ever interviewed by the FBI. Funny way to investigate. In fact, the FBI's involvement was the result of tips about federal crimes from a guard whistleblower. The FBI had already begun investigating by the time the chaplains first went to Parnell for help.

Parnell is still trying to mislead the public into believing he initiated the FBI investigation. But, if you listened carefully to his parsing of words, you only heard him say his office "shared complaints" with the FBI. He wants you to assume that means he initiated the investigation. He didn't.

Here's the key point. The FBI doesn't investigate the types of sex crimes alleged by the guard victims. There's no federal rape law. Such crimes are investigated, prosecuted and enforced by state and local agencies. Ask yourself: Did Parnell really convince a federal agency to investigate crimes over which it lacks jurisdiction?

Why didn't the governor seek the counsel of his administration's chief law enforcement official? In 2010, that would have been Attorney General Dan Sullivan. We're asked to believe that the governor didn't see any need to have his chief lawyer consider the legal consequences for the state of learning that guardsmen were raping co-workers while their supervisors did nothing?

Sullivan's official calendar for Nov. 5, 2010, contains an interesting appointment. The calendar, made public under a formal records request, says Sullivan was scheduled to meet with four of the top minds in the Department of Law. The subject of the meeting is noted as "FBI matter." What FBI matter?

Candidate Sullivan has been asked over and over what he knew about the guard scandal. For months, he refused to answer the question.

Recently, he said he didn't know anything at all about it. Is that possible? If he knew nothing, why didn't he just say that the first time he was asked about it? I'm not sure which reflects more poorly on his attorney generalship: that he didn't have a clue what was happening, or that he did know, didn't do anything about it, and now has to lie to conceal that fact.

And lastly, there's the matter of public access to public records. One of my early columns on the guard noted that the governor's chief of staff, Mike Nizich, had insisted on corresponding with the whistleblower chaplains using his personal email, not his state email. Why?

I'll tell you why: So, if necessary, the record of those discussions could be hidden from the public. He used his personal email even though, in 2009, Parnell had directed that all state business be done on state email.

I have in hand copies of emails between the chaplains, other officers and Nizich. As of Friday, those emails are nowhere to be found on the governor's painstakingly assembled log of public records relevant to the guard scandal -- which was released by Parnell only after a court forced him to. One of those letters takes SEVEN PAGES to detail the incidents of abuse.

And you, Mr. and Mrs. Alaska, are paying Mr. Nizich almost $200,000 a year to apparently hide evidence. Is that a problem for Parnell? Apparently not. Through all this, Nizich has remained arguably the most powerful unelected official in the state.

Please, when you think about Sean Parnell in that voting booth on Tuesday, remember two words:

Choose Reject.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

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, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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