- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - State Sen. Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into sexual assault and other allegations involving members of the Alaska National Guard, but she’s getting push back from the Senate president.

A federal report released Sept. 4 found evidence of fraud and ethical misconduct after allegations arose of sexual assault within the agency.

Critics such as the Alaska Democratic Party have said Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican who is seeking re-election, didn’t act quickly enough.

“You can expect to hear more from the Senate,” McGuire, R-Anchorage, told the Alaska Dispatch News (https://is.gd/3IP558 ) in a story Thursday. “I am ultimately going to hold hearings and I am going to call for a special investigator.”

Senate President Charlie Huggins isn’t sure that would be helpful.

“I don’t know anything the Legislature can do right now other than muddy the water,” Huggins, R-Wasilla, said.

Huggins said it doesn’t make sense to hold hearings with the election coming next month. But he’s not convinced that legislative hearings after the general election would be the best approach either.

McGuire, vice chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she will advocate for funding within the attorney general’s office to pay for investigators and other resources for a thorough review.

When such issues are uncovered, “and you recognize that you have a serious morale issue, that you have an issue that appears to have risen to the level of potential prosecution in one of our state entities, you have to act quickly,” she said.

Huggins said he would take a different approach, such as talking in a private setting with Brig. Gen. Jon Mott, who is in Alaska from Connecticut to lead the guard’s reform team.

Huggins also said it’s better to let the systems in place play out than for the Legislature to intervene.

He noted that various other investigations have already been conducted, including one by Parnell’s chief of staff and Alaska’s two U.S. senators before the release last month of the scathing report by the Department of Defense’s Office of Complex Investigations.

He told the newspaper there isn’t much a legislative investigation could add.

“None of us want to be a victim of knee-jerking because there’s a psychology of ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going on in the guard,’” Huggins said.

In the wake of last month’s report, Parnell asked for the resignation of Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, the adjutant general who led the guard, and McHugh Pierre, his top civilian aide and the deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Huggins said he believe Katkus is a good man but acknowledged he didn’t know what role Katkus might have played in the problems in the beleaguered agency.

He also said civilian law enforcement - Anchorage police and Alaska State Troopers - need to do their part in keeping Guard members safe.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com

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