Senate majority looks to hire ex-military affairs official

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015 10:26pm
  • News

JUNEAU — A state military affairs official, who was asked to resign as part of a leadership change following problems within the Alaska National Guard, has been offered a contract to work with the Alaska Senate majority press office.

In an email to members Monday, Senate President Kevin Meyer said he had decided to hire McHugh Pierre on a four-month contract that would be effective Jan. 15.

He said Pierre would primarily work out of his office but would be available to all members to discuss strategy and ways to better communicate the GOP-led majority’s priorities to the public. The majority caucus has 15 members, including one Democrat.

Majority press secretary Carolyn Kuckertz said Tuesday that the press shop is down one person from last year and hiring Pierre on contract was seen as a way to fill that void without associated long-term costs such as benefits that an employee would receive.

Meyer also said he wants to increase communication between senators and the public.

Pierre said he has tentatively agreed to the job but not yet signed a contract. He said he was scheduled to meet with Meyer’s office Wednesday to discuss contract details.

Meyer, in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday, said legislative procurement rules stipulate that professional services agreements cannot exceed $35,000 without the approval of a legislative committee.

He said the contract “will certainly be under” that amount, given the duration. While he mentioned a duration from Jan. 15 through May 15 in his email to lawmakers, he told the AP terms of the contract were still being negotiated.

Pierre, whose communications experience includes work with former Gov. Frank Murkowski, more recently served as a deputy commissioner with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Pierre was asked to resign by then-Gov. Sean Parnell in September following the release of a report from the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Alaska National Guard and the ouster of the state’s adjutant general.

Pierre said he did nothing wrong but accepted that Parnell wanted new leadership.

“He wanted new people in there, new faces to address the challenge and that was his way of doing it, and I supported him,” Pierre said. “That was what you should do as an appointee.”

He declined media requests at the time of his resignation — during a hotly contested gubernatorial race — because he said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss. He said if you work for an elected official and that official makes a decision, it is your responsibility to honor that decision, whether you agree or not.

He said he initially offered his resignation when the adjutant general, Thomas Katkus, was asked to leave but it was not accepted.

He said he was asked to continue working on some projects before Parnell ultimately asked for his resignation later in September.

Pierre said he made clear to the governor’s office in August that he did not plan to stay on after the November elections in order to open a business and pursue a master’s degree. He has started a communications firm and said he is looking at schools at which to apply.

Pierre said if the Senate majority plans any hearings surrounding the National Guard issue, he will not be involved in those discussions.

However, he said he has offered to speak with lawmakers about what transpired to help allow the department and Guard to move forward.

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