LOS ALAMITOS — The nation's highest-ranking Army Reserve officer has ordered the commander of an Orange County-based reserve unit to take immediate steps to deal with allegations of fraud, favoritism and mismanagement, officials said Tuesday.
Army Reserve officials also said they have not ruled out disciplinary action against officers at the 63rd Army Reserve Command in Los Alamitos after a three-month investigation into widespread problems at the base.
"Personnel actions could be forthcoming," said Lt. Col. William Maddox, a spokesman at the Army Reserve headquarters in Atlanta.
Maddox confirmed that Maj. Gen. Roger Sandler, chief of the Army Reserve, recently sent a letter to the local unit commander, "explaining to him that Sandler expects certain improvement to be made in the climate and management" of the base.
"The point we are making is that the place was not crumbling to pieces or going up in flames," Maddox said. "But those people who raised issues had legitimate beefs."
The local commander, Maj. Gen. Stephen Bisset of Fountain Valley, was out of town and not available for comment Tuesday, according to a Los Alamitos base spokesman who referred inquiries to the Atlanta office.
Sandler ordered an "informal investigation" into the Los Alamitos base July 6 after receiving complaints from officers and civilians that training programs did not comply with Army regulations, that training and medical records of an air crew had been falsified, and that unauthorized passengers had been transported on military aircraft.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Sewell, commander of a Virginia reserve unit who headed the investigation, also was asked to look into allegations that two colonels were drawing active-duty pay while looking for civilian work, and that another officer may have improperly influenced performance reviews of civilian workers.
Military officials declined to reveal specifics of Sewell's findings, which were submitted shortly before his retirement in September.
But Maddox said improvements suggested by Sandler "will cause a free flow of information up and down the chain of command and will create a broad base of trust for all members of the 63rd, soldiers and civilians alike," Maddox said.
During the probe, Sewell and top Army investigators interviewed 60 people employed at the base, which is responsible for about 9,000 reservists in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California.
The current edition of The Army Times, a military newspaper, reported on allegations that some base officials instructed employees not to cooperate with Sewell's investigation, and that other employees were sent away on temporary duty while investigators were interviewing people about the allegations.
On Tuesday, Maddox acknowledged employee concerns about reprisals, and he said Sandler made it clear in his letter to Bisset that employees and officers raised "legitimate issues."
"It's perfectly clear that no reprisals will be tolerated for anyone who met with the investigative teams," Maddox said.
Officials at the Army Reserve headquarters in Atlanta said they plan to closely monitor operations at the Orange County base.
Bisset and his staff have been ordered to prepare periodic reports detailing what changes are being made and "how they are improving the overall operations at the base. We will monitor to ensure that the changes are happening," Maddox said.