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Parnell stonewalls Guard scandal and lawmakers refuse to act

  • Author: Shannyn Moore
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published October 11, 2014

Earlier this year I received a loose-leaf notebook bulging with documents that detailed the sexual assault coverups and corruption in the Alaska National Guard. I spent a few months compiling information and interviewing as many people as would talk, trying to understand the players and the broad outlines of a mind-blowing scandal with real victims.

People talked to me even though they were afraid. Terrified, actually. For years those who had spoken up against crime in the guard had had their careers destroyed. Nevertheless, a handful of brave souls tried to sound the alarm -- even going directly the governor to enlist his help. They got nothing but retaliation.

After my first column on the scandal appeared in April, more victims contacted me. More documents showed up. Yet today, despite revelation after revelation of his failure to respond, Gov. Sean Parnell is still working overtime to hide the truth about what really happened. Not only did he shirk his responsibility for years, now he's actively trying to hide and obfuscate his role in supporting and empowering the wrong-doers.

Never in my reporting have I lost sight of the need for a strong Alaska National Guard. Very many of the troops we've sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been guard members. They routinely put themselves on the line for others.

Our Alaska Guardsmen have been forced to make choices they should never have faced: "do what's right" or "be loyal." Good people have been forced from service because they attempted to blow the whistle. Meanwhile, the perpetrators and enablers were given medals and promoted.

And so the Alaska National Guard scandal rages on, with Parnell hunkering down and refusing to make public the documents that would prove what he knew, when and what he did or didn't do. The news media is suing to try to force him to comply with state law. Can he hold them off until after the election? That's his hope and his prayer.

So if the governor is an outlaw, where is the Alaska Legislature? Legislators are supposed to have an oversight role. Our government has three branches, each of which is supposed to provide checks and balances on the others. Yet the Alaska Legislature appears to be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Parnell.

Despite a huge scandal that has been a matter of public concern for more than a year, the Legislature has been completely asleep at the switch -- or deliberately refusing to do anything that might appear to be critical of Parnell. There hasn't been a single hearing on this issue. Why? Because it's not important enough? I don't think so.

Gabrielle LeDoux represents a military district. In the voter pamphlet, she brags, "I have been a proactive supporter of the military, serving as the co-chair of the House Military & Veterans' Affairs Committee." And yet LeDoux hasn't made a peep about the problems in the guard and what needs to be done to fix them.

Sen. Pete Kelly and Rep. Dan Saddler both represent military districts. As co-chairs of the Joint Armed Services Committee, they have said and done exactly nothing.

Could it have something to do with the relationships between legislators and guard leaders?

The Senate Finance Committee chair is Kevin Meyer, whose wife was special assistant to the guard's top general, until he got fired.

The vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Anna Fairclough, whose chief of staff is married to Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre, who also has been fired.

Those are just the relationships I know about.

Between Parnell's stonewalling and the Legislature's coma, it's left to members of the guard, working with outside investigators and journalists, to try to tell Alaskans the truth. It wouldn't be unprecedented for the Legislature to stir itself in the face of allegations of misconduct by public officials. In 2008, at least some legislators tried to get to the bottom of "Troopergate." They hired an independent investigator and gave him subpoena power.

If the accusation of abuse of power in the firing of one employee -- Commissioner Walt Monegan -- was enough to spur a legislative investigation in that case, how could allegations of sexual assault, negligence, fraud, abuse of power and coverup within and above the National Guard not justify at least the same?

Maybe it's because we have a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate who, by their lack of interest, much less action, are effectively "circling the wagons" for partisan political reasons.

"Support the troops" should be more than a magnet on your truck. "Choose Respect" isn't about parades. Now's the time for some accountability. And hear this, my fellow Alaskans: If we don't demand it, you can be damned sure we won't get it.

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, e-mail commentary@alaskadispatch.com.

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