- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The incoming president of the Alaska Senate said Tuesday that he has decided against hiring a former state military affairs official to help the Senate majority press office this session.

Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, last week told colleagues by email that he had decided to hire McHugh Pierre on contract to work in the majority press shop. Details, however, had yet to be worked out, and Meyer said a contract was never signed.

Pierre was asked to resign his job as a deputy commissioner in the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in September following a report from the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Alaska National Guard and the ouster of the state’s adjutant general.

Pierre said he did nothing wrong and that he had previously informed then-Gov. Sean Parnell’s office that he did not plan to stay on after the November elections in order to open a business and pursue a master’s degree. He has since started a communications firm.

In an interview Tuesday, Meyer said Pierre, whose communications experience includes work with former Gov. Frank Murkowski, is a communications specialist and it was unfortunate things turned out as they did.

Meyer said he didn’t want a situation in which senators had to spend more time justifying Pierre’s hire than focusing on better communication with the public, which is the caucus’ aim. Senators also are planning hearings related to the National Guard issue.

The press office is down one person from last year. Hiring Pierre on contract was seen as a way to fill that void without associated long-term costs such as benefits that an employee would receive, but Meyer said the communications work will be done with existing staff and through the offices of individual lawmakers.

Fifteen of the Senate’s 20 members are part of the Republican-led majority.

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