Problems with harassment, sexual assault, fraud and other issues within the Alaska National Guard are serious business. The scathing report from the National Guard Bureau, the removal of Adjutant Gen. Thomas Katkus and Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre and additional promised shakeups in Guard leadership illustrate the gravity of the issues facing one of the state's prominent institutions. So itís difficult to understand Gov. Parnellís reticence in making public documents that would enhance the publicís understanding of what took place to warrant these actions and help ensure such missteps aren't made in the future.
In May, the Alaska Public Radio Network made a Freedom of Information Act request for emails between the governor's office, Gen. Katkus and Mr. Pierre related to the reports of problems in the Guard. The guidelines for FOIA requests state that agencies have 10 days to respond, with an additional 10 if more time is required to fulfill them. With the APRN request, the governor's office took 86 days before notifying the network it was rejecting their petition for information entirely.
Itís not as though the request slipped through the cracks. During the course of those three months, APRN said it made more than two dozen phone calls to the governor's office seeking a response, many of which were unreturned. When APRN finally received the rejection on Sept. 26, the governor's policy director Randy Ruaro said the communications, some of which came from Guard chaplains blowing the whistle on chain-of-command abuses, fell under the privilege between clergy members and their parishioners. Furthermore, Mr. Ruaro cited potential harm if victims' identities became known. Continue>>>