Ousted Military Affairs Official Returns As Senate Media Strategist

This story has been updated here.

A recently ousted military affairs official has been hired by the Alaska Senate Majority to guide their media strategy.

McHugh Pierre was asked in September to step down as deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, as part of then-Gov. Sean Parnell’s efforts to reform the Alaska National Guard. His resignation came shortly after the release of a federal report that concluded the Guard suffered from leadership failures and a toxic command climate. The next month, Pierre established a public relations firm, Quantum Communications. Pierre has now been granted a contract to aid the Senate’s Republican majority caucus in their communications with the press.

“We’ll be coordinating the message plan,” said Pierre in a phone interview. “The voters sent the right people to Juneau, and I want to make sure they’re effective in communicating to the voters what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it.”

Prior to his appointment as deputy commissioner, Pierre served as a spokesperson for the Alaska Republican Party. He also has communications experience with the military affairs agency and with former Gov. Frank Murkowski. Pierre says he was approached by Senate President Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, about an opportunity to work for the caucus. Pierre’s contract will last through May 15, and he will not be categorized as a state employee. Pierre also says even before the resignation, he had considered leaving the administration and launching his own communications firm.

“I was asked to resign because the governor was ready to have someone new in that position. You serve at the governor’s pleasure, and it was clear that he didn’t want the senior leadership to stay,” said Pierre. “I never did anything wrong. I don’t believe the organization did any wrong. I think the organization did everything it could to support its members.”

At the time of Pierre’s resignation, Parnell did not give an explanation for the firing, citing personnel rules.

Going into the legislative session, a number of lawmakers have already stated reform of the Alaska National Guard is a priority. The federal report by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations found that Alaska guardsmen were reluctant to report cases of sexual assault because of a lack of trust in the system, and that the Alaska force has problems with favoritism and fraud. Senate Judiciary Chair Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, plans to hold National Guard hearings, and Gov. Bill Walker is currently screening candidates for a special investigator position.

Pierre says he will not handle communications strategy related to the Alaska National Guard.

In an e-mail to majority caucus members, Senate President Kevin Meyer wrote that he consulted with a number of colleagues before Pierre’s hire.

“He brings a vast amount of experience working in communications and journalism and I believe will be a valuable asset to the experience and talent we currently have in our press office,” wrote Meyer.

Pierre will begin work for the Senate Majority on January 15.