More National Guard Documents Released, Most Unresponsive

The Alaska Attorney General’s office released a fourth and fifth set of documents concerning the Alaska National Guard on Saturday. One 171-page packet contained mostly press releases and official photographs. Another 151-page set is made up of duplicate records from previous drops.

While much of the material is unresponsive, the fourth packet contains a 2009 letter from then-Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom takes great exception to a letter sent to her from Debra Blaylock, wife of whistleblower Kenneth Blaylock. Debra Blaylock, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Alaska Army National Guard, wrote to Dahlstrom before Thomas Katkus was appointed adjutant general.

Blaylock asked Dahlstrom to “seriously look into Tom Katkus’ background if his name comes up for nomination.” She went on to write that Katkus was under investigation for “numerous allegations.” Blaylock acknowledged her husband had filed one of the complaints against Katkus and stated she had retired from service, “rather than suffer any more of his abuse.”

In her response, Dahlstrom chastised Blaylock, writing that Katkus had served for more than two decades as a captain and division commander with the Anchorage Police Department without complaint or discipline. Dahlstrom wrote that “because of your credentials as a military officer” Blaylock should be “sensitive to the extreme damage that results from reckless and baseless allegations.” Dahlstrom also expressed “great offense” to Blaylock’s “statement that [the Guard] is a ‘good old boy’ network with corrupt leadership.”

Dahlstrom concluded by voicing confidence in the governor and legislature’s vetting process for selecting and confirming a replacement adjutant general. Katkus was ultimately appointed by Gov. Parnell to replace Craig Campbell.

Dahlstrom later went to work for the Parnell administration, first briefly in 2010 and then again in 2012 to 2013. In her second stint as a military affairs aide, Dahlstrom received numerous complaints about the Guard, which she then forwarded on to Parnell chief of staff Mike Nizich.

The fifth packet also contains correspondence from a former Parnell aide with a record in the legislator. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who currently serves in the State Senate, sent an e-mail with the subject “Investigation” to Adjutant General Thomas Katkus and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre on April 26, 2011. He also forward a copy to Nizich and to Parnell policy director Randy Ruaro. The substance of the e-mail is entirely redacted, for reasons of deliberative and executive privilege.

Only 30 of the 171 pages in the fourth packet appeared responsive to the request by Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News.

With only two days remaining before the state’s election, the attorney representing the media organizations sent a strongly worded letter Saturday afternoon demanding that documents be released rapidly, with less redaction and in a process that avoids “further obstructing or delaying or denying access to the requested public records.”

This story has been updated to include information about a fifth packet of documents.

[Fourth Document Packet (25mb)]
[Fifth Document Packet]
[Attorney Letter]

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori