-- 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 today, 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 debit card, he went back to his delegation's hotel to wake up an aide who provided him with his government travel credit card so he could pay the bill.
The report found instances where Lewis’ interactions with some female co-workers on trips constituted “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
During a November 2015 trip to Malaysia and Hawaii the report found Lewis “engaged in physical contact with female subordinates observed by witnesses where the contact was not incidental or innocuous."
In Hawaii, the report said Lewis “drank to the point of not being sober, his attempted kiss necessitated a female subordinate to reject and physically block his inappropriate and unwanted advance.”
During the Malaysia portion of the trip his “close interactions with a female subordinate became a topic of conversation and concern among members of the travel delegation.”
During an August 2015 trip to Palo Alto, California, Lewis “invited a female enlisted Service member into his hotel room twice and conducted official business with her while he was shirtless and dressed only in gym shorts.”
Lewis, who has been assigned to an Army office at the Pentagon, issued a statement today, 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."