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Navy does not recommend punishment for ex-War College president over ethics allegations: report

Navy does not recommend punishment for ex-War College president over ethics allegations: report
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The Navy's inspector general has reportedly cleared the former president of the U.S. Naval War College of most accusations of improper workplace conduct.

The Providence Journal reported Tuesday that of 21 allegations against Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, the inspector general (IG) found 12 allegations to be “unsubstantiated,” while another seven were substantiated and two were referred to other branches of the Navy.

Harley last year was accused in multiple complaints of improper hiring practices and misconduct in the period after he became head of the school in July 2016.

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The inspector general began an investigation “after receiving an anonymous complaint on April 22, 2018, that specified multiple allegations of misconduct” by Harley, and identified 21 allegations, according to the 148-page “Tentative Report of Investigation,” issued on Dec. 23 and obtained by The Providence Journal.

The Associated Press first reported the allegations — of improper hiring practices and other misconduct including keeping a margarita machine in his office — which led to Harley’s resignation after nearly three years in the role.

Harley has contested the seven substantiated findings, which include that he “improperly endorsed the [Naval War College Foundation (NWCF)] and encouraged NWC students to become members of the NWCF”; “improperly used his non-Government email for official Government business”; and “failed to report a potential compromise of classified information incorporated into an unclassified dissertation/blog posting.”

The inspector general's report also found that Harley “wrongfully served and served alcohol on the NWC campus without proper authorization,” which referred to the “margarita machine” he kept in his office.

Harley told The Providence Journal that that machine was a blender that he sometimes used to mix drinks for staff or faculty.

The former college president called the inspector general's findings “deeply gratifying.” He said many of the most sensational allegations — “offers of ‘free hugs’ and games of Twister in his office” — reflected a misunderstanding of his sense of humor, which he describes as “quirky,” but which he says was intended to ease tensions in what can be a stressful environment.

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Harley was removed before the investigation was finished as “there was just enough actionable information at that point that I made the decision that I did,” then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told the AP at the time.

But Harley said that he “stepped down because of the distraction caused by a scurrilous AP article.”

He retired from the Navy honorably and with full benefits in December.

“It is deeply gratifying that the major allegations against me were unsubstantiated or not investigated. Being exonerated of the serious allegations takes a heavy burden from my shoulders. I am also glad the IG made no recommendations for punishment and that I can now move on,” he told The Providence Journal.

No type of sanction was given following the administrative investigation, and the inspector general's report was forwarded to the Defense Department and the Chief of Naval Operations for review and any recommendations.