Top Navy admiral kept spokesman after sexual predator warning: report

Top Navy admiral kept spokesman after sexual predator warning: report
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A spokesman for the Navy’s top admiral was allowed to stay on in his position even after he was accused of sexual misconduct while dressed as Santa Claus at a holiday party inside the Pentagon, USA Today reported Thursday.

Fellow officers and a civilian accused Cdr. Chris Servello, 41, of making unwanted sexual advances and slapping a woman on the buttocks at the December 2016 office party for Navy public affairs officials, USA Today reported, citing documents it had obtained.

Servello, who was the spokesman for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, was not reassigned until mid-August despite written warnings. His reassignment came weeks after USA Today sought documents on the incidents in question, the newspaper noted.

An initial inquiry report from Dec. 21 made clear that the Navy should have reassigned Servello.

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“I recommend that CDR Servello be immediately reassigned to a billet with no supervisory responsibilities and with dedicated oversight,” Capt. Peter Hudson wrote in the initial report.

The report triggered a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which was investigation completed this spring.

Richardson fired Servello after the investigation wrapped up and said in a statement that he waited until the legal process played out to protect Servello and the alleged victims.

“I followed the prosecutor's recommendations to the letter, imposing several adverse measures including dismissing Cdr. Servello from the staff and reassigning him to a non-supervisory position," Richardson said.

Servello told USA Today in a statement that Navy investigators did not recommend that criminal charges be issued against him.

“Ultimately, the allegations were unproven and charges were not filed,” Servello said. “I should have never put myself into a situation where my judgment or my military bearing could be called into question. I deeply regret this and have been held to account for my decision making. Indeed, the overall effect of the administrative counseling makes it highly unlikely that my career will recover."

Hudson’s report details the Dec. 16 office Christmas party, which included a six-hour open bar.

Servello told investigators he had four drinks and wore a Santa outfit because, “I thought it would be fun.”

A senior civilian woman in the office told investigators that Servello, “slapped her on the buttocks without her consent,” according an NCIS document. She “did not feel she was a sexual assault victim, but felt humiliated and disrespected by (Servello’s) actions.”

And an officer junior to Servello told investigators that he had given her “uncomfortable” hugs and she had to push him away.

Hudson concluded that the evidence did not adequately support criminal charges of sexual harassment but did show “extremely poor judgment.”

“Specifically, he has shown a pattern of using his outstanding professional reputation and standing in the [public affairs officer] community as an advantage in attempting to develop sexual relationships,” Hudson wrote. 

“He has made very strong advances in both cases involving alcohol toward at least two different junior officers (targets) that either have worked for him in the past or see him on a regular basis through the normal conduct professional PAO business.”

Richardson said he considers the issue closed.

"I remain passionately committed to a policy of 'no bystanders' and a Navy where concerns can be raised with trust and confidence that those concerns will be investigated thoroughly, and be appropriately acted on without fear of reprisal or retaliation," he said.