Senate majority leader demands review of National Guard assault policies after meeting with soldier

MADISON — A powerful Wisconsin legislator has demanded a detailed review of the state National Guard’s sexual harassment and assault policies after meeting with a soldier who alleges she was sexually harassed and the perpetrator was never punished.

U.S. Air Force investigators are already investigating allegations of sexual assault and harassment within a Wisconsin Air National Guard security unit at the urging of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican, wrote Tuesday to the Wisconsin National Guard’s top commander, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, requesting “a thorough review” of sexual harassment and sexual assault policies.

He asked for a detailed account of measures already in place and any recommendations for strengthening them. He also demanded information on the National Guard’s sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention efforts.

Guard spokeswoman Jackie Halverson said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the letter has been received and leaders will be getting back to Fitzgerald. She didn’t say when or offer any other details on whether they would comply.

“As I’m sure you know, the Wisconsin National Guard takes all allegations of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct seriously, and we do not tolerate it in our ranks,” she said.

The AP obtained a letter the woman wrote to Fitzgerald this past January from Jay Ellis, a master sergeant in the security unit whose allegations of harassment in the squadron sparked Baldwin’s intervention.

The woman’s name was redacted from the document. She wrote that she informed her brigade leaders twice in 2014 that a master sergeant had been sexually harassing and inappropriately touching her and her colleagues for months.

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, the woman wrote. Meanwhile, she said she was “slandered, libeled and ostracized” in retaliation. She did not identify the perpetrator or offer any examples of retaliation beyond saying she was kept on probation for six years when the authorized length is three.

Baldwin made her request for an investigation in November after Ellis contacted her office and said he had learned of six incidents of sexual harassment or assault against female squadron members between 2002 and 2016. He alleged that high-ranking commanders have done little to address the issues.

Ellis told the AP he had no documentation of the incidents because the women didn’t file formal complaints. One of the women told the AP in an interview, however, that she and a friend were sexually assaulted by superior officers in the squadron during a 2002 party at a Las Vegas training base.

Alec Zimmerman, Fitzgerald’s spokesman, said Fitzgerald and his staff met with the woman who wrote to him at the end of January and Fitzgerald “felt it necessary to request that Major General Dunbar send a report back to the Legislature.”

Fitzgerald spent 27 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring in 2009 as a lieutenant colonel.

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