State Begins Releasing National Guard Documents

The Department of Law has let out a trickle of state documents concerning the National Guard, in response to a lawsuit filed by Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News. Their search turned up over 10,000 records that require legal review, but the first batch is made up of just a handful of personal e-mails to and from Gov. Sean Parnell’s chief of staff. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

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On November 7, 2010, the governor’s sexual assault response coordinator, Katie 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 redacted, because of executive privilege. But between the black boxes, 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, and 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 TePas e-mail was part of a set of five released by the Department of Law on Monday, one month after the Office of the Governor denied a request for state records sent to and from Chief of Staff Mike Nizich’s personal account. The other four e-mails have already been shared with the press outside of official channels.

The thread is between Nizich and chaplain Koch, with Koch e-mailing Nizich with concerns about the Guard three times and with a two-week lag time before getting a brief response from Nizich 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.

The thread is identical in format to the leaked e-mails, with time and date stamps missing for half of the messages.

The documents are accompanied by a certification that Nizich searched his non-State of Alaska e-mail account for responsive records, that all such documents have been turned over, and that no other e-mails were sent to or from his personal account “to the best of [his] knowledge and recollection.”

Nizich’s personal e-mails are only one part of the records request submitted by Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News. 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 currently 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, according to a memorandum signed October 22.

The records request lawsuit was filed October 8, after the Office of the Governor took four months to deny a records request from Alaska Public Media concerning their response to misconduct in the National Guard.