a Jan. 25, 2018 file photo, Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar
welcomes home approximately 75 Wisconsin Army
National Guard soldiers from the 1st Battalion,147th
Aviation during a ceremony at the Army Aviation
Support Facility in Madison, Wis. Dunbar says all
recommendations made following an investigation into
multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment
will be implemented. Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar says in a
statement Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 that he was briefed
on results of the investigation on Saturday. Gov.
Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin requested the
probe by the National Guard Bureau's Office of
Complex Investigations. Dunbar says his team is in
the process of reviewing the report and “we intend
to implement all of the recommendations.”
MADISON — The commander
of the Wisconsin National Guard agreed to resign at Gov.
Tony Evers' request Monday, following the release of a
scathing federal report that found the Guard defied
federal law, regulations and policies for years over the
handling of soldiers' sexual assault and harassment
The report from the
National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., found the Guard
allowed internal investigations in defiance of federal law
as well as Department of Defense and bureau policy;
investigators falsely presented themselves as working for
the federal bureau; case records were mismanaged; and
Guard sexual assault response policies were not in
compliance with federal regulations for more than five
Evers' office said in a
statement that the governor asked the Guard's top leader,
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, to resign hours before his
administration released the report Monday afternoon.
Dunbar agreed to step down on Dec. 31.
Evers appointed Brig. Gen.
Gary Ebben — the assistant adjutant general of the
Wisconsin Air National Guard — as interim commander and
will choose a permanent replacement, his office said. The
governor also ordered the Guard to implement all of the
report's recommendations by September.
“I am extremely upset and
concerned with the ... findings,” Evers said in a
statement. “Our service members deserve to be safe and
supported while carrying out their important mission.”
Wisconsin National Guard
spokesman Joe Trovato referred a request for comment to
Dunbar is the nation's
longest-serving state National Guard commander. He was
appointed in 2007 by then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. He
has earned numerous commendations, including the Legion of
Merit award for exceptional command performance. But the
Guard has been shaken by recent allegations of officers
brushing off sexual assault complaints and retaliating
against victims for reporting incidents.
Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy
Baldwin asked the National Guard Bureau in March to review
the Wisconsin National Guard's sexual assault reporting
and investigative protocols. The bureau spent nearly seven
months on the review, meeting with more than 1,600 Guard
leaders and members.
Among the key findings:
—The Wisconsin Guard
ignored Defense Department polices and procedures by
personally directing the Guard to conduct internal
administrative investigations in 22 of 35 cases reported
between 2009 and 2019. Department regulations call for
cases to be referred to local police for criminal
investigation and the National Guard Bureau for
were poorly trained and their probes lacked oversight,
often resulting in incomplete findings and
recommendations. They sometimes falsely presented
themselves as bureau investigators.
—Victims were told to
waive their right to criminal investigations by local
properly tracked and data was never entered in a Defense
Department database as required.
—The Guard was supposed
to have 28 victim support advocates to help sexual assault
and harassment victims but had only one.
—The Guard's sexual
assault policies haven't been updated since 2013 and don't
include changes to federal laws and regulations.
—Guard officials reached
an agreement with the state Justice Department in October
2018 spelling out that the Guard could refer sexual
assault cases to the department. The report referenced an
email written by then-Attorney General Brad Schimel's
chief of staff saying the agreement was meant to “get
the federal National Guard Bureau off the back” of
—Either the victim or the
accused perpetrator or sometimes both carried loaded
weapons while the investigation was ongoing, leaving open
the possibility that one of them could shoot the other in
—Guard officials didn't
note substantiated sexual offenses in offenders permanent
—Every state's National
Guard was ordered to implement a reprisal prevention plan
in 2017 to encourage personnel to file complaints without
fearing retaliation but Wisconsin officials never
Evers on Monday ordered the
Guard to implement changes detailed in a corrective action
plan submitted by bureau investigators, including updating
written policies and communicating all disciplinary
actions down to the company level. The bureau will oversee
implementation and conduct another review to ensure every
issue has been addressed. The order also calls for the
creation of an outside ombudsman who will oversee sexual
assault complaints within the Guard.
Baldwin said in statement
that Guard members deserve a work environment free of
sexual assault, harassment and fear of retaliation.
“The failure of
leadership, wrongdoing, and lack of accountability that
has been uncovered demands change at the Wisconsin
National Guard, including new leadership and implementing
all of the report's recommendations," Baldwin said.
Allegations that Wisconsin
Guard officers had been brushing aside sexual assault
complaints and retaliating against victims came to light
in November 2018 when Master Sgt. Jay Ellis complained to
Baldwin about half a dozen incidents within his 115th
Fighter Wing security squadron. Ellis wrote in a letter to
the senator that his unit considers sexual misconduct
“no big deal."
One of the women involved
in an incident Ellis cited told The Associated Press that
officers sexually assaulted her and a friend during a 2002
party at a training base. She didn't file a formal
complaint because she feared reprisal. She did report the
assault to her fire team commander, who passed on the
report to a senior master sergeant, but the efforts
resulted only in the woman being harassed.
Ellis' letter spurred a
U.S. Air Force investigation that's still underway.
State Senate Majority
Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who is running for
Congress in 2020, asked Dunbar in February for a complete
review of Guard protocols for handling sexual assault
complaints. Fitzgerald made the request after meeting with
a female soldier who told him she twice informed brigade
leaders in 2014 that a master sergeant had been sexually
harassing and inappropriately touching her and her
colleagues. She said an investigator and rank reduction
board found the master sergeant had acted inappropriately
but he was allowed to retire with no punishment and was
later hired back as a contractor.
Dunbar refused to launch
such a probe, instead outlining the protocols in a letter
to Fitzgerald and stressing that the Guard has “zero
tolerance” for sexual misconduct.
Evers and Baldwin then
stepped in and asked the bureau for the review.
Pay raises for Wisconsin state
workers up for approval
MADISON, Wis. — Pay raises for Wisconsin
state employees are scheduled to be voted on next week
by a special legislative committee.
The panel of legislative leaders is scheduled to meet on
Dec. 18 to act on the pay plans, Assembly Speaker Robin
Vos's office said Tuesday. The Legislature's budget
committee approved the pay plans, but they must also win
approval by another committee comprised of Vos and other
Democrats had been calling on Republicans to set the
meeting so the raises can go into effect in January as
State workers are slated to receive a 2% general wage
increase in each of the next two years. Employees at the
University of Wisconsin System and on the Madison campus
are also to receive the same increase.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is also proposing that state
employees' minimum wage be set to $15 an hour starting
on June 7. Prison guards are in line to see even higher
raises, with starting wages increase from $16.65 to
$18.22 an hour. That pay boost is designed to address
staffing shortages in Wisconsin's prisons.
The entire package is expected to cost just over $84