WASHINGTON — The Army chief of staff allowed a two-star general to retire honorably last month, despite a pending investigation into whether the general had pressured a subordinate's wife to have sex with him, defense officials said Friday.
Chief of Staff Dennis J. Reimer allowed Maj. Gen. David R. Hale to retire Feb. 28 as investigators studied allegations that Hale had used his position as deputy commander of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Turkey to win sexual favors from Donnamaria Carpino, officials said.
Carpino has said that Hale forced her into a four-month sexual relationship in early 1997 by promising that in return he would shield her husband, his chief administrative aide, from adultery charges that Hale claimed others had brought to him. Using the same leverage, Hale, a bachelor, forced Carpino, 44, to clean his home, she has told Pentagon investigators.
Hale, 53, former deputy commander of the Allied Land Force Command-Southern Europe in Izmir, Turkey, has denied all charges. At the time of his retirement, he had been deputy inspector general of the Army for four months. That job put him in charge of all personnel investigations for the service.
News of Reimer's action became public at a time when the service has been accused of treating top officers facing allegations of sexual misconduct more leniently than subordinates facing similar charges.
That accusation was leveled most recently during the court-martial of Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney, who was charged with 19 infractions in connection with sexual misconduct allegations brought by six military women. McKinney was acquitted on 18 counts but convicted of obstruction of justice, reprimanded and retired at a reduced rank.
On Friday, the Army denied a request by McKinney that his demotion be delayed while he appeals. A 29-year veteran, McKinney was the first black to become sergeant major of the Army.
While the Hale investigation may continue for some time, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen expressed concern Friday and said that he had ordered his inspector general and the Pentagon's top lawyer to review the facts.
"We will pursue this," Cohen told reporters at the Pentagon.
Army officials rejected assertions that Reimer's decision to allow Hale's retirement demonstrates the service's double standard.
When Hale requested retirement, Reimer reviewed the case and decided to approve the move for several reasons, they said. He was aware that his action could stir comment because of continued publicity over the military's treatment of sexual infractions, they said. But at the time, the investigation had yet to yield "a single piece of paper showing that there had been wrongdoing," said one senior Army officer.
In addition, Reimer was told by staff advisors that he still retained full authority to discipline Hale--including administrative sanctions or a full court-martial--even after the general has left the service, officials said. Reimer "still has all his options," one officer insisted.
"Simply stated: Everything that the Army could do before retirement could be done after retirement," the Army said in a statement. "When and if the Army receives a report of investigation with substantiated allegations, the Army will take appropriate action."
Neither Hale nor Carpino, who lives in Occoquan, Va., could be reached for comment. Charles W. Gittins, Carpino's attorney, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The allegations against Hale came to light in a story in Friday's editions of the Washington Times.
In an interview with the newspaper, Carpino said that Hale came to rely on her for social events. While she accused him of coercion, she also suggested that Hale had become closely attached to her.
After their sexual relationship ended in June 1997, Hale traveled to Hartford, Conn., to meet Carpino's mother, saying that he wanted to get to know her family because he wanted to marry her.
Carpino said that she divorced her husband last year because of the adultery allegations and because his work kept him away from home for long periods of time.