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10/27/14 - Lawsuit brings release of 2010 emails to Governor's office about Guard misconduct

Oct 28, 2014

Emails describe chaplain's concerns, fears about Alaska National Guard leadership

The Department of Law has begun releasing records about the Governor's Office's response to complaints in 2010 about sexual assault and other misconduct in the Alaska National Guard. Their search turned up more than 10,000 records that require legal review. But the first batch to be released is made up of just a few personal e-mails to and from Gov. Sean Parnell's chief of staff Mike Nizich.

As APRN's Alexandra Gutierrez reports, one of the emails, dated  November 7, 2010, is from the governor’s sexual assault response coordinator, Katie TePas. TePas sat down with a National Guard chaplain about trouble in the force. Two hours later she e-mailed her meeting notes from her personal account to the personal account of Chief of Staff Mike Nizich.

Much of the e-mail is blacked out because of executive privilege. But between the redacted sections, TePas wrote that the chaplain, Lt. Col. Richard Koch, appeared to be “very credible.” Koch documented concerns with National Guard leadership, with specific complaints about then-Adjutant General Thomas Katkus. The chaplain wanted a guarantee that Katkus would not be informed of the complaints against him. Koch told TePas that he feared reprisal, and so did victims of sexual assault.

"Koch has had several contacts with victims of sexual assault who have not come forward due to fear of reprisal and actual reprisal. One of those victims is an officer,” TePas wrote in the e-mail.

The thread is between Nizich and chaplain Koch, with Koch e-mailing Nizich with concerns about the Guard three times. After a two-week lag time, Nizich sent a brief response acknowledging receipt of the e-mails. The correspondence discusses the sexual assault of young women, credit card fraud to the “tune of over $200,000,” and the trade of illegal drugs.

Earlier, the Governor's Office had denied a request for records from Nizich's personal e-mail account from Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News, which filed a lawsuit under the Public Records law.

Nizich’s personal e-mails are only one part of the records request. The Department of Law also searched the state e-mail system for specific key words related to National Guard misconduct and turned up over 10,000 documents. The Department provided a 352-page log of those e-mails, including parties involved and subject line, and a team of attorneys is reviewing them to make sure they are germane to the request and do not fall under an exception to the public records law. Responsive e-mails are to be released on a rolling basis.

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