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Committee that oversees Wyoming Military Department approves bills to resolve concerns on sexual assault reporting

 The Wyoming Air National Guard military base in Cheyenne.
Mike Vanata/WyoFile
The Wyoming Air National Guard military base in Cheyenne.

A couple of bills relating to the Wyoming National Guard's sexual assault reporting process have been approved by the members of the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

The committee agreed to a bill that would require the Wyoming Military Department to submit annual reportson sexual harassment, discrimination and sexual assault. But the military department's legal counsel Christopher Smith said only complaints that get to the higher-ups will be reported.

"We want people to go to the inspector general with their questions and concerns," Smith told the committee members. "A lot of them don't give rise to an actual complaint. A lot of those aren't investigated and then the military department doesn't find out about them."

That means the report would only include complaints that were officially accepted. But in the past couple of months, whistleblowershave come out saying they've experienced retaliation for just trying to figure out how to report a sexual assault or harassment complaint.

In an effort to make the process -which a whistleblower has described as purposely confusing and difficult - the committee approved a bill that creates a full-time position in the Department of Workforce Servicesto carry out the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations for the Wyoming Military Department. The workforce service was brought in so there will be external review of these cases. But Smith admitted to the committee that the department doesn't have anyone to carry out this kind of oversight right now.

"So we have had to go out and hire basically contractors to function as EEOC investigators," said Smith. "We've also had to borrow EO counselors from the Bureau of Land Management and the Veterans Association [at] FE Warren. We don't have that position in the military department, so we've had to borrow."

Another bill allows local law enforcement to exchange information with the military department to catch bad actors.

These bills came from a November meeting where public comment addressed multiple alleged sexual assault and harassment reports that were not handled correctly by the military department. The bills will now be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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