Weeks after firing the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, Gov. Sean Parnell has asked another official at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to resign.
Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre submitted his resignation on Thursday, and will leave the department on October 2. His resignation letter lists his “tremendous accomplishments” at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, singling out disaster response efforts and the development of a veterans cemetery near Fairbanks. But the letter makes no mention of the Alaska National Guard, which was recently the subject of a scathing federal report.
As deputy commissioner, Pierre communicated with National Guard chaplains who raised concerns about the handling of sexual assault reports. In 2013, Pierre directed the chaplains not to speak with legislators about National Guard matters without first going through the chain of command. In an April interview with APRN, Parnell defended Pierre’s actions, and called the directive “standard operating policy” that “you don’t speak for the business, you don’t speak for the department without first coordinating it with your supervisor.”
On September 4, Parnell released the results of an investigation by the federal National Guard Bureau finding that the Alaska reserve forces mishandled sexual assault cases. The report also described instances of fraud and found the Alaska National Guard was experiencing a crisis of confidence with its leadership. That day, Parnell asked the Adjutant General, Thomas Katkus, to resign.
Sharon Leighow, a spokesperson for Parnell, confirmed that the governor also asked Pierre to step down, but did not give an explanation for his removal and did not mention the Guard in her statement.
“There won’t be any further comment on Mr. Pierre from our office,” Leighow wrote in an e-mail.
Michael O’Hare, a deputy director for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, will take over the position on an acting basis.
Pierre did not return calls for comment. In his resignation letter, Pierre states he is “looking forward to new challenges and new adventures in the private sector.”
Pierre’s dismissal comes one day after Parnell met with a reform task force led by Brig. Gen. Jon Mott of the Connecticut National Guard to develop a plan for implementing the National Guard Bureau’s recommendations.