The head of the Kansas National Guard has asked federal authorities to review an internal investigation by the guard that reportedly showed racism, enlistment fraud, sexual assault and other misconduct.
The guard’s internal investigation was first reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal on Sunday. The story, which prompted criticism from Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, laid out allegations of a wide range of misconduct at the Kansas National Guard and raised questions about the leadership of Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the state’s adjutant general.
Tafanelli released a statement late Friday afternoon that said he was asking the National Guard Bureau to review the internal investigation and the actions taken by the state guard in response. Tafanelli said he would not comment further until the National Guard Bureau completed its review.
Tafanelli also released a letter he sent to the National Guard Bureau.
“As you are aware, over the past few days local Kansas news outlets have carried stories alleging inappropriate behavior of members of the Kansas National Guard (KSNG) and allegations of failure by senior leaders of KSNG to act upon duly executed investigations. I take those allegations very seriously,” Tafanelli says in the letter, which is dated Jan. 11.
He goes on to note that the guard conducted an internal investigation from 2013 through 2015 into misconduct that was alleged to have taken place between 2006 and 2014.
“As the Adjutant General, it is my job to ensure that our Soldier and Airmen are operating in an environment that directly reflects the values of the Army and Air Force at all times. While I am confident in the quality, integrity and commitment of my organization’s personnel and their performance standards I believe a third-party review of these investigations...is prudent and necessary,” Tafanelli states in the letter.
The letter said Tafanelli has asked his legal advisor to turn over investigative files to the National Guard Bureau for review.
The guard’s disclosure of the letter comes a few hours after the Democratic leader of the Kansas Senate said the Legislature should conduct an inquiry into the Kansas National Guard if Brownback did not launch his own investigation.
“Quite frankly, I think the governor ought to be doing that himself,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, told reporters Friday morning. “... I think there’s some serious problems with the guard, and if the governor doesn’t want to look into it himself, then the Legislature should.”
Brownback initially dismissed the newspaper’s report on the allegedly toxic climate in the guard. He told the Capital-Journal in a video interview Monday that he has no concerns about the leadership of Tafanelli, who he appointed in 2011.
“Lee Tafanelli is a great leader. He has been a wonderful adjutant general for the state of Kansas. I’ve worked closely with him. He’s led in combat. He’s been a legislator,” Brownback said.
“The military has processes where they review complaints that are brought forward…and those processes are and will be followed,” Brownback said.