Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2003

Guard probe reportedly under way

May 29, 2003


— Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's office is investigating allegations that the Kansas Army National Guard is inflating its troop strength, House Speaker Doug Mays said Thursday.

Mays requested the investigation last week after obtaining details of an ongoing internal audit ordered by Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner, the state adjutant general.

The audit, which was still ongoing, found that during the seven-year period, 2,400 soldiers were retained by their units for as long as six months before discharges were complete. The figure included soldiers who missed one or more monthly drill but returned in later months.

Soldiers who did not attend drills or who were discharged didn't receive pay, the audit concluded.

Mays has maintained that the figure represents "ghost soldiers" kept on the rosters of the 8,000-member Guard to artificially inflate actual unit strength.

Kline spokesman Whitney Watson said the attorney general had a policy of refusing to confirm or deny whether any investigation has started.

Mays said he spoke directly with Kline, who said an investigation was under way but would not discuss its scope.

"What I heard from the Attorney General's Office is probably the last thing I'm going to hear until they do something, if they do something," Mays said during an interview. "I have very little information."

But statements from others raised questions about whether an investigation has started.

Joy Moser, spokeswoman for the adjutant general, said she wasn't aware of any request from Kline's office for information.

Nicole Corcoran-Basso, spokeswoman for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the governor's chief counsel spoke with Kline's office Thursday morning and "our understanding was that they had not made a decision."

"There is an independent military audit under way," Corcoran-Basso added. "To reach a conclusion before that would be irresponsible."

Gardner sought the audit to determine whether any soldiers had been paid after being discharged. He told reporters Tuesday there was no benefit to inflating strength for the state or it units.

He also said then that soldiers who did not attend drills and had been ordered discharged were counted against a unit's overall strength and were not paid.

Those soldiers are classified as "nonvalidated" by the National Guard Bureau. The national goal is 2 percent of total strength classified as nonvalidated, while the Kansas rate is 1.8 percent.

The audit said 380 soldiers were classified as nonvalidated in the seven-year period.

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