WTC_EarlyStageSymposium2019Day2

Gov. Tony Evers has hired a Georgia Army National Guard officer for a new position to assist survivors of sexual assault in the Wisconsin National Guard.

Gov. Tony Evers has hired a Georgia Army National Guard officer for a new position to assist survivors of sexual assault in the Wisconsin National Guard.

Evers announced Friday that Lt. Col. Brian Bischoff will serve as ombudsman for the Wisconsin Air and Army Guard. In this independent position, Bischoff will field concerns and facilitate communication regarding sexual assault investigations between the governor’s office and the National Guard.

The position is a federal one, and is being created for Wisconsin by the National Guard Bureau, a federal administrative agency that oversees Guard units nationwide. Bischoff will report to the state beginning next week, according to Evers’ office.

“The ombudsman will play a critical role in restoring trust in the Wisconsin National Guard’s handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations,” Evers said in a statement. “Everyone serving in the Wisconsin National Guard deserves to know that their concerns about sexual assault and harassment will be carefully, fairly, and thoroughly reviewed.”

Bischoff is a member of the Georgia National Guard and an Iraq war veteran. He has more than 17 years of experience as an attorney for the Army, including serving as one of the federal National Guard Bureau’s first Special Victims’ Counsel. In that role, he advocated for survivors of sexual assault before military agencies, boards, and courts-martial, according to Evers’ office.

The ombudsman will review of allegations of sexual assault and retaliation within the Wisconsin National Guard and provide quarterly reports to the governor, according to an executive order Evers issued in December 2019.

The order also requires the Wisconsin National Guard to “fully accommodate the ombudsman, including providing full access to personnel and records deemed necessary by the office of ombudsman.”

Evers announced that he would hire someone for the position in December after federal investigators found that dozens of sexual assault investigations conducted by the National Guard violated state and federal laws. According to a report from the National Guard Bureau, released Dec. 9, the Wisconsin National Guard ignored Department of Defense protocols for how to conduct sexual assault investigations, did not track or report data on sexual assaults to the federal government as required, and did not sufficiently fund or staff training programs.

Adj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, who led the Wisconsin National Guard, resigned in December after the report was made public. The Air Force is still investigating him in two separate probes, according to Evers’ office. The first probe has been ongoing for months, and predates the release of the National Guard Bureau report. It involves separate alleged misconduct, including retaliation against a whistleblower. The second probe was started during the course of the National Guard Bureau’s investigation last year, after investigators found that Dunbar continued to improperly investigate allegations of sexual assault even after he was warned against doing so.

Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said they learned of the second probe late last month.

 

Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.