Alaska National Guard commander fired rival job-seekers: governor

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2014 7:23 PM

By Steve Quinn

JUNEAU (Reuters) - Governor Sean Parnell has ordered the Alaska National Guard's top commander to rehire two senior officers he fired last week as the trio were all competing for the same higher-ranking job, officials said on Monday.

Brigadier General Mike Bridges, the guard's top acting official in Alaska, fired Brigadier General Catherine Jorgensen and Colonel Edie Grunwald on Thursday, Parnell's spokeswoman said in a statement.

Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow declined to provide the original reason for the firings. But she said Parnell had not been consulted on the move and ordered the pair rehired after he learned of the dismissals.

"To avoid any appearance of impropriety on behalf of General Bridges, who has also applied for the adjutant general position, (Parnell) directed General Bridges to rescind the terminations," Leighow said in a statement. 

The personnel rethink comes with Parnell, a Republican who faces re-election in November, facing scrutiny after a federal investigation he ordered cited examples of fraud, ethical misconduct and lack of confidence in the command.

The report led to the firing of Major General Tom Katkus, adjutant general and commissioner for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and his deputy, civilian McHugh Pierre.

On Thursday, Parnell told reporters there would be more firings but would not be specific, citing personnel laws. It was unclear whether Jorgensen and Grunwald were connected to the broader allegations of misconduct.

"I initiated some leadership changes without consulting with the governor's office, which I rescinded within 24 hours," Bridges told the Alaska Dispatch News. "My fault."

The Alaska National Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Leighow did not say whether Bridges knew whether the other two were seeking the adjutant general job. Nor did she say how it became known that all three were vying for the top position.

(Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh)