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Special investigator planned to look into Alaska Guard allegations

January 5, 2015 (Photo Credit: Becky Bohrer/AP)

JUNEAU, Alaska —

Alaska's new attorney general is in the process of hiring a special investigator to look into the handling of sexual assault complaints within the Alaska National Guard, Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said Monday.

Attorney General Craig Richards is vetting five candidates who have strong criminal investigation backgrounds and are in good standing with the Alaska Bar, said Grace Jang, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Walker.

Jang did not have a set timeline for the hiring but expected it to be soon. She said the choice will have to be approved by Walker.

Jang said the investigator will look into allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and cover-up, as well as whether the response of law enforcement was appropriate and whether proper procedures were followed.

The issue isn't being handled in-house by the Department of Law because of the large scope, "and we want to make sure that we have a fresh set of eyes," Jang said. "This person's going to be focusing exclusively on putting this report together."

Allegations of misconduct within the Guard and criticism of the prior administration's handling of complaints overshadowed last year's gubernatorial race.

In September, then-Gov. Sean Parnell released a report from the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations that found that victims did not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command. Parnell said he called in the bureau last year after receiving examples of how the command structure was failing Guard members.

The bureau's findings led to the ouster of then-Adjutant Gen. Thomas Katkus.

Parnell defended his administration's response to reports of problems within the Guard, saying he and his office acted on every allegation that was made to them. Prior to leaving office, Parnell said he hoped Walker would follow the road map laid out by the bureau for restoring confidence in Guard leadership.

Jang said Walker has met with the bureau and been briefed on that process. Walker has not yet named a permanent new adjutant general.

During the campaign, Walker raised the possibility of naming a special prosecutor to dig into the Guardscandal. Jang said the investigator will be more of a fact-finder and will recommend whether a special prosecutor is needed.

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