National Guard Called into Question during Senate Hearing

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Governmental Accountability Committee heard testimony Wednesday from members of the Missouri National Guard who said they have been treated unfairly during misconduct processes. Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, asked the committee to hear testimony after he was contacted last year about an issue involving a number of his constituents.

One example presented to the comittee involved the circumstances surrounding a Missouri National Guard member's ties to Nazism. Nathan Wooten was a member of the Military Funeral Honors Team when three co-workers lodged formal complaints last April about his ties to Nazism.

Brandon Knott, one of the co-workers, testified via speakerphone and told the committee their complaints led to Wooten constantly trying to get them in trouble or fired.

Another example was presented to the committee by Captain Gason Gipson. He told the committee that last year, he was charged with false allegations of misconduct.

Throughout the hearing, Stouffer stressed the importance of the committee focusing on the current process problems within the Missouri National Guard and not on any one particular case. "It's amazing how these folks' careers are held by a very small number of people and retaliation is real, very real," Stouffer said.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, chairs the committee which heard the testimonies Wednesday. He said there needs to be follow-up to the hearing and they have to find out what's the role of the legislature on this matter. "It sounds to me like policies and procedures are in place but maybe they aren't being dealt with on an even keel as far as the different situations that come before the leadership of the guards," Lembke said.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri National Guard said it does not make state policy therefore it does not comment on legislative process. But she did said that every member of every organization is entitled to due process and there are systems in place that have to be followed. Wooten's lawyer did not return KOMU 8's phone call Wednesday.