Finally after months of pretty good news coverage of the scandals plaguing the Arizona National Guard and Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, the Arizona Republic has turned up the editorial heat on new commander Michael McGuire.
It’s clear that the author of that editorial doesn’t understand, a) the gravity of the previous scandals, b) the potential that McGuire had at least some knowledge of those matters (if not involvement in them), and c) that Governor Jan Brewer’s office had months’ (if not years’) worth of warnings from whistle-blowers which were either ignored, or worse, forwarded to McGuire’s predecessor, Hugo Salazar, who covered them up or initiated reprisals against the whistle-blowers.
So good job, Phil Boas (or whoever wrote the opinion). Now, what took you so long? And keep it up!
EDITORIAL: Arizona Guard’s latest scandal
TRY SOME TRANSPARENCY
Other than the person who replaces Clarence Carter, preferably soon, at the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the agency director with the toughest job in state government right now is the fellow charged with reforming the Arizona National Guard.
What a challenge Brig. Gen. Michael McGuire faces.
It would be one thing if the Guard’s many scandals involving fraud, sexual abuse, fraternization and more all were behind McGuire. At least then the new commander could focus all his energies on reshaping the culture of a vital but deeply troubled service.
But one of the more embarrassing of the Arizona Guard’s recent scandals — the alleged sexual exploitation of a grieving Guard widow by not one but two Guard members assigned to assist her — lingers on. It persists in terms of the legal process and as an informational cover-up.
It continues in part because the new commander has not yet addressed one of the most self-defeating practices of his predecessors, the habit of withholding documents in a futile attempt to make a scandal go away.
In 2011, a non-commissioned officer was assigned as a casualty assistance officer to a woman, herself a Guard member, in the wake of her husband’s non-combat death.
The sergeant developed a sexual relationship with the widow, an utterly forbidden practice. Then, evidence surfaced that a captain assigned to investigate the affair also began acting inappropriately toward the widow.
The Guard refused to provide Republic reporter Dennis Wagner with investigative files or disciplinary records in either case. Guard spokesmen insist the files are restricted by federal law. But, as Wagner reported, the Guard released numerous such investigative reports involving other cases.
A much-decorated F-16 pilot, McGuire describes his leadership philosophy as “firm but fair.” He clearly grasps the need to re-establish the good reputation of a proud and important branch of the service.
But as Wagner has demonstrated in his many, incisive reports on the troubles at the Guard, the habit of trying to hide dirty laundry has consistently been a part of its many scandals.
It would not be fair to the new commander to conclude, at this early juncture, that he is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. But withholding documents hardly fosters the kind of openness needed to ensure history doesn’t repeat any time soon.