DigitalVision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A Pentagon investigation has determined that Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s former senior military aide misused his government credit card to pray for pricey bills at gentlemen’s clubs in Rome and Seoul, made false statements about those payments, drank to excess in public, and had “improper interactions” with women.
Last November, Carter fired Major Gen. Ronald Lewis, who was serving as his senior military assistant, after becoming aware of the allegations, which he referred to the Department of Defense’s Inspector General for investigation. The Inspector General has recommended that that Army take “appropriate action” against Lewis.
The Inspector General’s report, released Thursday, concluded that while Lewis accompanied Carter on foreign trips, Lewis misused his government credit card to pay for steep bills at gentlemen’s clubs in Rome and Seoul. He was also found to have made false statements about those payments, drinking to excess in public and for having “improper interactions” with women, according to the IG’s report.
In a rebuttal to the report’s initial conclusions, Lewis acknowledged mistakes but challenged the investigation for being faulty and disputed some of the facts presented by investigators. In light of his rebuttal, the Inspector General stood by its investigation and amplified some details.
Investigators found that during an April 2015 trip to Seoul, Lewis visited the “Candy Bar” gentlemen’s club that for various reasons was off-limits to U.S. military personnel based in South Korea. Lewis used his government-issued travel credit card to pay for his $1,121.25 bill, according to the IG. When staffers later pointed out the transaction on his credit card bill, he denied he had made it and it was removed by the credit card company after he challenged the bill.
During a trip to Rome in October 2015, Lewis used his government credit card to pay the $1,755.98 tab he had run up at the “Cica Cica Boom” gentlemen’s club, according to the IG’s report. When he was unable to pay the bill with his personal credit card, he went back to his delegation’s hotel to wake up an aide who could provide him with his government credit card so he could pay the bill.
During a November 2015 trip to Hawaii, Lewis met with a former enlisted military staffer with whom he had dinner and drinks. The female enlisted service member told investigators that Lewis had “approached her closely in a manner that backed her into a wall and caused her to believe he wanted some kind of physical contact.” She told investigators that she felt that Lewis might have wanted to kiss her but that she rejected his advances.
Lewis, who has been assigned to an Army office at the Pentagon, issued a statement Thursday, noting that “In my 33 years in the Army, I have always taken full responsibility and been accountable for my actions, and I do so today as well.”
“I acknowledge that I made some of the mistakes identified in this report. Others I strongly contest. From the onset, this process was unfairly influenced by statements made and actions taken at the highest levels of the Department of Defense,” he added. “My family and I look forward to putting this behind us.”
Carter said in a statement that he had been briefed on the investigation’s conclusions and withheld further comment pending the Army’s review of the matter.
“As I said when I first learned about allegations of misconduct against Maj. Gen. Lewis and removed him as my Senior Military Assistant, I expect the highest possible standards of conduct from the men and women in this department particularly from those serving in the most senior positions,” Carter said. “There is no exception.”
The Army is currently evaluating the Inspector General’s investigation “to determine what administrative or disciplinary actions may be appropriate,” the Army said in a statement. “The Army takes allegations of misconduct seriously and demands all senior leaders, regardless of rank, uphold the highest standards of moral character and competence.”
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