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Troopers: National Guard colonel cleared of bear hunt allegation in 2009

  • Author: Jill Burke
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 9, 2014

At least one allegation lodged against former Alaska National Guardsman Col. Timothy DeHaas appears to have been unfounded.

In 2009, Alaska State Troopers investigated a complaint about DeHaas, who served as chief of staff for the Alaska Army National Guard, and another individual using a guard helicopter to go hunting. Troopers closed the case after finding no proof DeHaas had broken the law, according to Megan Peters, a public information officer with the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

DeHaas' name has come up in the aftermath of a scathing report about conditions in the Alaska National Guard. The report detailed numerous leadership failures, from poor oversight to favoritism, misconduct and possible fraud.

A paragraph dedicated to examples of serious ethical lapses uncovered by the National Guard Bureau's investigative team describes, without naming names, a laundry list of allegations -- the same allegations that have been made against DeHaas.

This tension, between the improper things the troop base knows or thinks are happening and the opaque and seemingly inconsistent results of inquiries into wrongdoing, is a core dysfunction within the guard, according to the report.

"Many interviewees perceived that favoritism was occurring, when in many cases appropriate and thoughtful personnel decisions were being made," the NGB report states.

Yet in the case of the section that appears to reference DeHaas, the report clearly indicates that some misconduct did occur, substantiated by the Department of the Army's inspector general.

It states:

"The (IG) found that, over a period of several years, the officer had inappropriately used government vehicles, to include helicopters, for personal use. The Team was also informed that this same official had improperly interrogated a victim of sexual assault and exercised bias in the administration of personnel matters. Many individuals interviewed by the Team blamed the current TAG for failing to take administrative action against the former AKNG official after learning of the DAIG findings against the officer."

The TAG -- shorthand for "adjutant general" -- at the time was Brig. Gen. Thomas Katkus, relieved of duty last month by Parnell.

DeHaas retired in 2011, around the same time he received the Legion of Merit award.

Among the allegations against DeHaas was that he had used a National Guard helicopter to go bear hunting.

"It is unlawful to use helicopters to transport hunters, their gear or game taken in Alaska," Peters explained in an email to Alaska Dispatch News. But in this case, Peters said, no such improper use of a helicopter occurred.

Not only did the troopers close the case, she said, but the investigating trooper found evidence that could have cleared DeHaas in the event charges were filed.

"Evidence supported that an air taxi service was utilized for hunting purposes, not a guard helicopter," Peters said. "This led to the case being closed without charges being referred to the Department of Law."

This leaves questions for the public about which of the allegations against DeHaas were actually found to be true. The supposed wrongdoing connected with the 2009 bear hunt was just one allegation among many. Although troopers cleared DeHaas of one allegation involving the helicopter, another agency validated helicopter misuse. And connecting who did what and when, and whether those actions actually violated some rule, regulation, policy or law, is difficult to do.

A central element of Gov. Sean Parnell's stated reform effort, identified by the National Guard Bureau's own team, is to end the secrecy that has allowed misperceptions and misconduct to flourish.

To that end, it has recommended that "the guard develop a level of transparency to reinforce the concept that justice is being pursued, specifically regarding actions that involve promotion and discipline," and that it "address the validity of claims of ethical and moral misconduct."

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