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WI National Guard top commander resigns after report on his handling of sexual assault allegations

MADISON (WKOW) -- The top commander of Wisconsin’s National Guard said he will resign at the request of Governor Tony Evers, following the release of a report by federal investigators which found the National Guard went against federal law when handling sexual assault and harassment claims.

The National Guard Bureau found Major General Donald Dunbar improperly launched an internal investigation into sexual assault complaints in defiance of federal law and the Department of Defense policies. Federal policies require the Guard to refer claims of sexual assault to outside agencies.

Dunbar's resignation goes into effect at the end of the month.

According to the report, the Guard at times falsely represented themselves as federal workers, were poorly trained, did not offer victims support and mismanaged cases, which resulted in “numerous deficiencies.”

Investigators also found, in some cases, “no concern” for the safety of the victims who made these claims and in one incident allowed a victim to work with the perpetrator.

Governor Evers said he was “extremely upset and concerned” with the findings in a statement.

“Our service members deserve to be safe and supported while carrying out their important mission, which is why I have ordered the Wisconsin National Guard to implement top-to-bottom changes to ensure a safe workplace in the Guard, one that is free of sexual assault and harassment and the fear they might face retaliation for reporting sexual assault or harassment when it happens,” Evers wrote in a statement.

Federal investigators offered 21 recommendations for the Guard including updating their policies, procedures and protocols to be in conjunction with federal law.

Governor Evers also signed an executive order requiring the Guard to implement all of the recommendations from federal investigators, including ways to prevent sexual assault and harassment and to implement best practices from other states. 

The order also requires the Guard to create an independent office to assist survivors and those filing a complaint. This office will report back to the Governor with its findings on a quarterly basis.

Evers asked for Major General Dunbar's resignation Monday, which Dunbar accepted. He will step down on Dec. 31. An interim has been selected.

The National Guard started looking into allegations after a whistleblower, Sgt. Jay Ellis, came forward in November 2018. Ellis told U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) he was aware of a half-dozen incidents within his 115th Fighter Wing squadron. 

After receiving the news, Baldwin sent a letter to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, asking the office to examine allegations that Wisconsin National Guard officers brushed aside reports of sexual assault and harassment.

Since then, investigators spent nearly seven months on the review, meeting with more than 1,600 Guard leaders and members.

Baldwin thanked federal investigators for conducting an independent and comprehensive review of Wisconsin National Guard in a statement.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the service and sacrifice of our Wisconsin National Guard service members and I have worked for over a year to do right by courageous whistleblowers and brave survivors of sexual assault who came forward and contacted my office,” wrote Baldwin.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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