Draft report doesn't recommend punishing ex-Naval War College head

PROVIDENCE (AP) — A draft of a naval inspector general report does not recommend any punishment against a senior officer who was removed as president of the U.S. Naval War College, according to The Providence Journal.

The newspaper reported Tuesday that the “tentative report of investigation” into retired Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley's management of the college in Newport, R.I., was forwarded to the Defense Department and chief of naval operations for their review and recommendations, if any — a process that could take weeks or months.

Harley was removed as president of the college in June, days after The Associated Press reported he was under investigation for allegedly spending excessively, abusing his hiring authority and otherwise behaving inappropriately, including keeping a margarita machine in his office. Harley retired Jan. 1.

The Navy's top admiral at the time, Adm. John Richardson, called the AP report “responsible and balanced" and said he felt he had enough information to warrant removing Harley from his post. Richardson retired in August.

The Navy has denied multiple records requests by the AP for the inspector general report, citing the open investigation, as recently as Thursday. A spokesman said Tuesday that the Navy has not released the report.

Two of the allegations involving management of the college budget have been referred without judgment to other branches of the Navy and Harley contested the findings that were substantiated, according to The Providence Journal. The newspaper said it independently obtained the report, which described 12 allegations determined to be unsubstantiated and seven that were substantiated.

Among the unsubstantiated allegations were claims that Harley improperly directed the use of government funds for trips and lectures to the war college by a person whose name was redacted in the report, that he improperly solicited gifts, and that he showed undue favoritism toward someone whose name was redacted, the newspaper reported.

Among those substantiated, Harley improperly endorsed the war college foundation, used his personal email for official business, failed to report a potential compromise of classified information, and served alcohol on campus without proper authorization, according to the report. Harley said the margarita machine was a blender that was used, rarely, to mix drinks for staff or faculty.

Harley called the findings “deeply gratifying" and said many of the most sensational allegations, such as offers of free hugs and games of Twister in his office, reflected a misunderstanding of his sense of humor. He criticized the investigation, saying he was “guilty until proven innocent.”

A small group of longtime college employees filed an anonymous complaint about Harley in April 2018 with the Navy's inspector general. Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield assumed command of the school Aug. 1.

 

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