Senator demands investigation after report on Navy 'Bad Santa'

Senator demands investigation after report on Navy 'Bad Santa'

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLobbying world 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' MORE (D-N.Y.) is calling for an investigation into a report that a high-ranking Navy spokesman was allowed to keep his job after he was accused of sexual misconduct.

“I am extremely troubled that it appears senior Navy leadership turned a blind eye to this unacceptable behavior to show favor to a trusted aide to the detriment of not only the subjects of his unwanted advances but the entire Pentagon community who knew of this alleged abusive behavior yet saw no immediate action by their leaders,” Gillibrand wrote in a letter Friday to the Pentagon’s inspector general, requesting an investigation.

“Failure of leadership in an instance such as this, if accurate, would directly undermine good order and discipline. It is essential we answer the question of who knew what, when and why no action was taken to remove the alleged offender (even temporarily) from such an important, public position.”

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In a case it dubbed "Bad Santa," USA Today reported Thursday that Cdr. Chris Servello was allowed to remain spokesman for the Navy’s top admiral after being accused by fellow officers and a civilian of making unwanted sexual passes and slapping a woman on the buttocks while dressed as Santa Claus at a 2016 office Christmas party.

The initial inquiry into the incident, completed Dec. 21, recommended that Servello “be immediately reassigned to a billet with no supervisory responsibilities and with dedicated oversight.”

A full Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation was started after the initial inquiry. The investigation was completed in the spring with no criminal charges recommended, according to the report.

Servello was reassigned in mid-August, which USA Today noted came weeks after it began asking the Navy about the issue.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement Thursday that he was waiting for the legal process to play out before firing Servello.

“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.

"I was advised by legal counsel throughout, and due process was strictly followed to safeguard both the dignity and safety of the complainants and the rights of Cdr. Servello."

In her letter, Gillibrand said the actions of Navy leadership appear to conflict with the nature of the allegation and warrant an independent investigation. The inspector general, she added, has the “unique ability” to investigate whether there was mismanagement and bias.

“The reactions of senior Navy leadership seem incongruent to Cdr. Servello’s reported inappropriate behavior and warrant an independent, impartial party to fully examine the handling of this case,” she wrote.

“The response of military leadership to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault is critical to stopping this behavior, encouraging reporting, and supporting survivors."