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Gov. Tony Evers announces sexual misconduct ombudsman to ‘restore trust’ in Wisconsin National Guard

Governor Tony Evers gives his first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the State Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. (Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism/Flickr)

Gov. Tony Evers has named an Iraq War veteran with 17 years of experience as an Army attorney to serve as ombudsman for the Wisconsin National Guard and assist those reporting sexual misconduct.

Lt. Col. Brian Bischoff’s appointment comes after an investigation found a litany of failings in how the Guard handled sexual assault and harassment allegations. At the request of Evers, Wisconsin National Guard Adj. Gen. Donald Dunbar announced his resignation last month.

“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.”

A member of the Georgia National Guard, Bischoff served as one of the federal National Guard Bureau’s first special victims counsels, where he advocated for sexual assault survivors.

The National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations report, released last month, found that the Wisconsin Guard’s policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual misconduct were out of date, ineffective, understaffed and in violation of federal rules.

The approximately six-month investigation and subsequent report stemmed from allegations that officers with the Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, based at Madison’s Truax Field, had dismissed at least six incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

The report found that, under Dunbar, the Guard violated Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau policies by using its own investigators in sexual assault complaints instead of referring them to local law enforcement or other external authorities.

In December, Evers announced sweeping reforms within the Guard, including the establishment of an office of ombudsman to assist survivors and complainants in the review of allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation within the Wisconsin National Guard.

The Guard is required to fully accommodate Bischoff, who must provide quarterly reports to Evers on his work. Bischoff also will have full access to any necessary personnel and records within the Guard.


© 2020 The Wisconsin State Journal