Air Force confirms Wisconsin commander under investigation

MADISON — U.S. Air Force officials confirmed Wednesday that they're investigating the Wisconsin National Guard's former commander after Guard investigators determined he improperly launched an internal sexual assault investigation.

Gov. Tony Evers' office has said the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations discovered that Adj. Gen. Donald Dunbar improperly launched the probe sometime last year while the OCI was conducting a top-to-bottom review of the Wisconsin Guard's sexual assault complaint protocols.

Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin requested the review in March after Master Sgt. Jay Ellis complained to Baldwin in 2018 that commanders in his 115th Fighter Wing security squadron had brushed off at least six sexual misconduct complaints dating back to 2002.

The National Guard Bureau produced a report in December that found multiple shortcomings with how Dunbar's command handled sexual assault complaints, including launching internal investigations in 22 of 35 cases reported between 2009 and 2019. Federal law and Department of Defense regulations require commanders to refer sexual assault complaints to their respective branches' criminal investigators and prohibit internal investigations.

Dunbar resigned at Evers' request hours before the report went public and has since retired, according to Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Joe Trovato said.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the OCI investigators discovered that Dunbar had launched another internal sexual assault investigation sometime before October while their review was ongoing, even though he knew that OCI had already flagged internal investigations as a serious problem within his ranks.

Evers' office learned in October that OCI had forwarded the allegations to the National Guard Bureau's inspector general and learned in late December that he was under investigation. Baldauff said she didn't know specifically what violations investigators were looking at or whether the probe was still ongoing.

Maj. Rob Perino, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said Wednesday that any investigation would be handled by the Air Force since Dunbar was an Air Force officer while he was leading the Wisconsin Guard. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek confirmed late Wednesday that there is an ongoing investigation involving Dunbar but declined to provide any further details.