- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An internal investigation of the Kansas National Guard has raised alarms about leadership problems that include instances of enlistment document forgery and racism.

Guard officers found evidence that confidential information about the inquiry was leaked to people under scrutiny and retaliation occurred against individuals cooperating with the investigation, according to documents obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/2jr7ZYY ).

The Air Guard one-star general and Army Guard lieutenant colonel who led the investigation separately concluded the Kansas National Guard was being damaged by “toxic” leadership. Both investigating officers urged Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli to end management culture that protects wrongdoers and to demonstrate fair treatment was available to all in the Kansas Guard.

Tafanelli, who as Kansas’ adjutant general has served as commander of the Kansas Army and Air Guard since 2011, declined to be interviewed by the newspaper but responded in an opinion page column.

“Unfortunately, there are a few that will choose to act in an inappropriate manner and bring discredit to themselves and their service,” Tafanelli said. “When this occurs, we work to thoroughly and impartially investigate those instances and take action to address these behaviors where necessary and when appropriate.”

The investigation started in 2013 amid renewed allegations that Guard recruiters were pressured by superiors to forge documents to clear unqualified applicants or speed processing of paperwork. The inquiry was closed in 2015.

Investigators recommended discipline for five individuals ranging in rank from a first sergeant to a one-star general, for violating “trust and confidence of our soldiers” and disrupting the “important mission of enlisting soldiers into our ranks.” Recommendations involved denial of promotion, reduction in rank, job reassignment and forced retirement.

Several under scrutiny eventually retired with full pomp and ceremony. And a white officer accused of inflaming racial tension was among those promoted or able to retain prestigious assignments.

Tod Bunting, a retired major general in the Kansas Air Guard who served as adjutant general from 2004 to 2011 under Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, told the newspaper that Guard members and retirees who complained faced retaliation by superiors and pressure to leave.

“There are people internally who are fed up, but they are so intimidated,” he said.

Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday he would “maintain full support” for Tafanelli, whom he appointed.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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