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Former Coast Guard Academy official under investigation for 'alleged inappropriate conduct'

Prompted by a report of "alleged inappropriate conduct," the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service on April 12 started an investigation into Master Chief Brett VerHulst, Coast Guard Academy spokesperson Cmdr. Dave Milne said this week.

VerHulst was the academy's command master chief — the senior enlisted leader — but was reassigned last week.

"The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) is conducting an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct by Master Chief Brett VerHulst, assigned as the Command Master Chief (CMC) at the Coast Guard Academy," Milne said in a written statement.

He went on, "The Coast Guard cannot provide details at this time in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and to protect the Coast Guard's ability to take appropriate final action. Pending the outcome of the investigation, CMC VerHulst has been temporarily removed from his position."

Milne said Thursday the investigation is active, and it's unclear at this point how long it will last or what will be publicly released.

He declined to comment on the nature of the "inappropriate conduct" being investigated, whether allegations pertain to cadets or staff, if one incident or more is being reviewed, or the highest ranking Coast Guard official to be briefed on the alleged conduct. Milne said he didn't have information on when reporting happened, or to whom, prior to CGIS launching its investigation.

A spokesperson at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., referred questions back to the Coast Guard Academy. The Day has a Freedom of Information Act request pending with the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly had said in an email to staff mid-day on April 27 that VerHulst "has resigned his duties as the CGA CMC this morning, effective immediately." Navy Times was the first to report the news.

Milne said this week that while VerHulst resigned his duties as command master chief, he was also temporarily relieved of his primary duties at the same time. He said the admiral had determined there was enough information to take action. 

VerHulst is no longer command master chief at the Coast Guard Academy but is still in the service and still has the rank of master chief.

Last week, Milne said VerHulst is being reassigned to the Coast Guard Research and Development Center in New London.

Capt. Dan Keane, commanding officer at the RDC, said Friday that Monday was VerHulst's first day there. Keane said VerHulst is still doing administration and check-in, that he hasn't been assigned a role yet. Keane said he doesn't know how long VerHulst will be there.

VerHulst didn't respond to messages Friday seeking comment.

Kelly said in the email last week that CSCM Anthony Schell will be the interim command master chief until Master Chief Maria D'Angelo arrives this summer.

Milne said D'Angelo had already been scheduled to join the Coast Guard Academy this summer. Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath, commander of the Personnel Service Center, announced in a bulletin on Feb. 4 that D'Angelo was assigned command master chief at the academy.

D'Angelo is a U.S. Navy veteran who enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2002 and was assigned to Coast Guard cutter Monomoy in Woods Hole, Mass. Among other transfers, she served as the auxiliary division chief and command chief on the cutter Bear, then became assistant engineer officer of Sector Virginia and then command senior chief at Sector South East New England.

D'Angelo and Schell both have received a Coast Guard Commendation Medal and Coast Guard Achievement Medal, among other awards.

Schell, assigned as a contracting officer's representative at the Coast Guard Academy, joined the Coast Guard in 1992. He has served on the cutters Oachita, Sweetbrier, Kukui, Walnut, Morgenthau, Jarvis and Waeche.

e.moser@theday.com

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