Priests from around Alaska along with Father Andrew E. Bellisario, right, enter St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church for his Ordination and Installation as the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Priests from around Alaska along with Father Andrew E. Bellisario, right, enter St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church for his Ordination and Installation as the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Diocese commissions sexual misconduct review

Diocese forms independent group to examine employment records, allegations

The Diocese of Juneau has assembled a group of experts to look into any allegations of sexual assault in the diocese dating back to 1951, according to a release Wednesday.

The commission, assembled by Bishop Andrew Bellisario, will review personnel files of all clergy who have served the diocese since it was established in 1951.

The commission — which is independent from the diocese — includes former Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, former Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Thomas Schulz, and retired Juneau Police Department Lt. Kris Sell. The diocese will cooperate fully with the investigation, the release stated.

Dominique Johnson, director of communications for the Diocese, said in an interview Wednesday that this investigation was not brought about by any specific allegations of sexual misconduct.

“It’s for transparency to make sure there’s nothing in the personnel files,” Johnson said. “A lot of other Diocese across the country are doing the same thing right now.”

The commission will begin its work Jan. 7, 2019 and is scheduled to wrap up its investigation by June 1, 2019. After they finish their review, the members of the commission will present a written report to Bellisario and the President of the Diocesan Review Board for the Protection of Children, Young People, and Vulnerable Adults. After this, Bellisario will publish the names of all those who are implicated in the report, according to the decree he signed this week.

The report will include a list of names of all those determined by the commission to have credible allegations of sexual misconduct. This will include any violation of state, federal or canon law involving children or vulnerable adults and the improper handling of those cases by those in authority. The investigation won’t be limited to clergy, as employees and volunteers will also be subject to review, the decree states.

The business manager of the diocese is working to prepare a budget to cover the costs of the commission’s travel expenses, administrative costs and compensation, according to the decree.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage launched a similar investigation in October, Johnson pointed out, and Juneau is following the Archdiocese’s lead. He said six months is a fairly standard length of time for an investigation such as this to take.

To find the members of the commission, Johnson said Bellisario and diocese staff compiled a list of lawyers, law enforcement officials and judges who would have enough time to dive into a six-month investigation.

Collins was a District Court judge in Ketchikan prior to sitting on the Juneau Superior Court, according to the release. Schulz practiced law in Juneau and served as a district magistrate for two and a half years in Juneau before being a Superior Court judge for 19 years. Sell worked at JPD for 20 years as an officer, detective sergeant and lieutenant, serving as a lieutenant for the final 12 years of her career until she retired in 2017.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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