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Chief of Naval Academy Resigns After Investigation

June 05, 2003|Esther Schrader | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy resigned this week after Navy investigators determined that he acted improperly by grabbing a Marine sentry who had asked for his identification and that he had failed "to promote good morale" at the school.

Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton submitted his resignation Tuesday, a month after a report by the Navy inspector general found that he "did bodily harm" to the sentry by grabbing his wrist when the Marine asked Naughton, dressed in civilian clothes and accompanied by friends, for identification on New Year's Eve.

The Navy announced Naughton's resignation Wednesday.

Naughton, who had been in the job for one year, had on several official occasions "embarrassed and humiliated subordinates through conduct that is inappropriate for a commander," the inspector's report concluded.

The report, dated April 3, was released by the Pentagon after the Navy announced Naughton's resignation.

But it was the incident with the sentry that set off the inspector general's investigation. A complaint alleged that Naughton became angry when, among a crowd of civilian revelers seeking to enter the grounds of the academy in Annapolis, Md., he was not recognized by the sentry and was forced to stand in line and show his identification.

Naughton was not inebriated when he grabbed the wrist of the male sentry, the report said. But the investigators found that in grabbing the sentry, who was having trouble reading the identification card in poor light, and in thrusting the card at him, Naughton engaged in "unlawful force."

Naughton told investigators that he did nothing wrong and did not recall having touched the sentry.

"That is an infraction that is taken very seriously," said Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli, a Navy spokesman. "You don't interfere with a sentry in the performance of his duties."

Adm. William J. Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, reviewed the report. He agreed that Naughton had had improper contact with the Marine sentry, but not with the broader allegations against the superintendent, a Navy spokesman said. Meeting with Naughton on May 28, Fallon "counseled him on his lapse in judgment" but found no further disciplinary action warranted, Pietropaoli said.

However, Naughton concluded this week that with the inspector general's report common knowledge at the school, he could no longer perform well in his job.

"Over the past few months, too much attention has been focused by media and others on the superintendent," he said in a statement released by the academy. "Because of this attention, I have asked the chief of naval operations to reassign me elsewhere and to bring in new leadership that can take the academy where it needs to go."

The investigators said that not everyone found Naughton's style inappropriate.

"There were those who testified that they have never seen the admiral act inappropriately," the investigators wrote. "One of those individuals, a senior official, stated that, in his opinion, the admiral's detail-oriented focus on financial matters was 'long overdue.' "

Still, the investigators said there was "general agreement among critics and defenders alike" that at many meetings Naughton would "question his subordinates with intensity, with a raised voice and in an aggressive tone."

Naughton, an Iowa native who began his career in 1964 as an academy midshipman, will be temporarily replaced by Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr., vice chief of naval operations for readiness and logistics.

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