Pentagon finds Bad Santa emails tainted Adm. William Moran
WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense Inspector General found that Adm. William Moran violated Pentagon policy when he maintained a relationship by email with a former sailor who had been disciplined for sexual misconduct after incidents stemming from a booze-fueled Christmas party inside the Pentagon.
The Inspector General launched the investigation after USA TODAY filed a Freedom of Information Act request in June for copies of emails between Moran and retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Servello, his former spokesman. The report was released Wednesday morning.
“We determined that Admiral Moran used his personal e-mail account to conduct official DoD communications, in violation of DoD policies,” the Inspector General found.
The inspector general deferred to the Navy on disciplining Moran and urged the service to remind personnel not to conduct official business by private email.
Investigators combed through 572 pages of emails and also determined that Moran had been in contact with Servello and 12 other Navy personnel.
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Servello had also served as the spokesman for Adm. John Richardson, the chief of Naval Operations who stepped down last week. Richardson fired Servello in 2017 over sexual misconduct related to incidents at the 2016 Christmas party. One of the incidents included slapping the buttocks of a senior civilian Navy employee.
Moran’s continued reliance on Servello for public affairs advice after Servello had been removed from his job for inappropriate conduct toward women employees was a “performance issue” for Moran.
“We found that Adm. Moran used his personal e-mail account to discuss official DoD communications with the former Navy commander and other Navy military, civilian, and contract personnel,” according to the inspector general’s report. “We also found that Adm. Moran frequently communicated by personal e-mail with the Navy commander to conduct official DoD communications after the commander had been removed for inappropriate behavior towards junior female officers and a female civilian employee.”
Moran admitted to investigators that he had continued to email Servello and did so out of convenience. The inspector general noted that “DoD policies clearly state that personal email accounts must not be used to conduct ‘official DoD communications.'”
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Richardson told investigators he was “displeased” to learn Moran had been in contact with Servello. Richardson said that Moran’s continued reliance on Servello “showed poor judgment and would send the wrong message to the public and members of Congress about how seriously the Navy, and the CNO’s office, took the Navy commander’s inappropriate behavior towards junior female officers and a female civilian employee.”
Moran acknowledged that he had used his email inappropriately but emphasized that the communications did not involve classified information, according to a statement he provided to the inspector general.
Moran added that he considered Servello to be a trusted aide and that he believed in the “power of redemption.”
He acknowledged that “some view my continuing professional relationship with this Navy commander as insensitive, inappropriate, or wrong. I regret this.” Moran made the decision to retire “rather than put the institution through additional turmoil at a critical time.”
Moran had been confirmed by the Senate and was weeks away from taking over the Navy’s top post when he resigned abruptly in July. Moran acknowledged continuing a professional relationship with Servello using private email. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said that relationship caused him to question Moran’s judgment.
An investigation by USA TODAY had revealed that Richardson had kept Servello on his staff for months after the party despite an internal investigation that had branded Servello’s actions toward junior women officers predatory and called for his reassignment. The Pentagon’s Inspector General reviewed the case and determined that Richardson had failed to discipline Servello in a timely way.