ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A state judge has temporarily blocked the firing of one of three Alaska National Guard officers terminated in October by then-Gov. Sean Parnell.
Brig. Gen. Catherine Jorgensen sued this week to keep her job. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi agreed Wednesday to issue a temporary order barring the state from carrying out the dismissal, Alaska Dispatch News (https://is.gd/0bH79p) reported. The termination was supposed to be effective on the last day of the year.
Jorgensen alleges Parnell fired her without cause in a “political Hail Mary” to save himself.
Parnell ran an unsuccessful bid for re-election after the release of a scathing report into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard. Critics said Parnell didn’t act quickly enough in addressing problems.
A report by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations released in September found that victims lacked confidence in the command structure and led to the ouster of Thomas Katkus as adjutant general.
Parnell lost the election to independent candidate Bill Walker.
Guidi says his order will remain in place until a broader hearing, possibly in mid-January. A key issue for a judge to decide, according to Guidi, would be whether a guard general is an “at will” employee who can be terminated without cause by the governor, who is the commander-in-chief of the Guard.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Dosik said the civilian governor needs to have that kind of control over top Guard officials.
One of Jorgensen’s attorneys, Ray Brown, said the at-will status applies only the top Guard officers, the adjutant general and assistant adjutant generals. Brown said Jorgensen should have been afforded an administrative hearing, at the least, in which she could hear specific accusations and provide a defense.
In her lawsuit, Jorgensen said she did nothing to justify her “politically motivated firing.”
Jorgensen and Col. Edith Grunwald were fired in early October, unterminated a day later, then fired again Oct. 20 as the scandal grew. Also fired on Oct. 20 was Brig. Gen. Donald Wenke, who lost his job as commander of the 176th Wing.
Walker spokeswoman Grace Jang said Wenke is taking an honorable retirement. Grunwald is scheduled for retirement this spring, according to Jang.
Jorgensen has no plans to retire before 2018.
Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com
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