Draft report confirms some claims about ex-war college head

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A draft of a naval inspector general report found that several claims involving a retired senior officer who was removed as president of the U.S. Naval War College could be substantiated, though the report does not recommend further punishment, 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, Rhode Island, 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.

The draft report found that among the substantiated claims, Harley served alcohol on campus without proper authorization, the newspaper reported, though Harley said that the margarita machine he was accused of having was a blender that was used, rarely, to mix drinks for staff or faculty.

Two of the allegations involving management of the college budget have been referred without judgment to other branches of the Navy. Twelve allegations were determined to be unsubstantiated, and seven were substantiated, according to the report. Harley contested the substantiated findings.

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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 the margarita machine in his office.

Emails obtained by the AP showed the college had struggled to make payroll under Harley’s leadership and spent about $725,000 annually on raises while facing an annual shortfall of $5 million or more. 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.

The Providence Journal said it independently obtained the report, which found that 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.

Among those substantiated, Harley improperly endorsed the war college foundation, used his personal email for official business and failed to report a potential compromise of classified information, according to the report.

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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