This undated file image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, president of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. On Monday, the Navy said Harley has been reassigned pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation. The administrative reassignment comes days after The Associated Press reported on the investigation amid allegations that he spent excessively, abused his hiring authority and otherwise behaved inappropriately. (U.S. Navy via AP, File)

This undated file image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, president of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. On Monday, the Navy said Harley has been reassigned pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation. The administrative reassignment comes days after The Associated Press reported on the investigation amid allegations that he spent excessively, abused his hiring authority and otherwise behaved inappropriately. (U.S. Navy via AP, File)

Naval War College head reassigned pending probe

Criticized for alleged excessive spending, abusing his hiring authority, behaving inappropriately.

By Jennifer McDermott and Michelle R. Smith / Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The head of the U.S. Naval War College was removed from his post Monday, days after The Associated Press reported he was under investigation amid allegations of mismanagement.

The Navy announced the reassignment of Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, who has been criticized for allegedly spending excessively, abusing his hiring authority and otherwise behaving inappropriately — including keeping a margarita machine in his office.

Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Pau said Monday that Navy leaders felt the change is best for the college because it maintains the integrity of the investigation. Pau, the spokeswoman for Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said it would ensure that Harley is afforded due process.

Inspector general investigations, across the Defense Department, routinely take months or more than a year. Provost Lewis M. Duncan has temporarily assumed the president’s duties.

Harley later announced his departure to campus by saying he was “stepping down.”

“Team—this will be my last email to you,” Harley wrote. “Due to the distractions caused by the unfounded AP article last week, I am stepping down as President of YOUR college effective immediately.”

Asked to clarify, college spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross told the AP on Monday that Harley was reassigned to Washington and had not resigned.

Harley had earlier told the AP the college, located on Narragansett Bay in Newport, was under fiscal strain because the Navy hasn’t fully funded new missions.

The college on Monday also postponed a strategy forum that was due to start Tuesday and was expected to draw high-ranking officials including Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, along with hundreds of guests. Spencer was still scheduled to speak Friday at the graduation ceremony for the elite school, which grooms future admirals and generals.

Emails obtained by the AP show the college has struggled to make payroll under Harley’s leadership and spent about $725,000 annually on raises while facing an annual shortfall of $5 million or more.

Harley said in an email this year that the school had to make across-the-board cuts to ensure it met payroll. He recently asked for more cutbacks in travel budgets.

Multiple current and former college employees blamed the budget problems in part on substantial raises granted by Harley to some faculty, as well spending on certain contractors and others, who they said brought little benefit to the college. They spoke about their concerns on condition of anonymity because they feared professional retaliation.

Harley has told staff and faculty in emails this spring that the college was remedying pay gaps between men and women, balancing pay between departments and creating a system to avoid future disparities.

He declined last week to answer a series of questions about additional allegations, including his use of a margarita machine. He downplayed the complaints in a campus-wide email, saying they were from “a few individuals” and all his decisions were subject to legal review and within his authority.

A small group of longtime college employees filed an anonymous complaint in April 2018 with the Navy’s office of the inspector general. Two of them told the AP that they and others were interviewed by investigators in September but nothing happened.

The group contacted the inspector general again in January with additional allegations but said they heard nothing again from investigators until last month, after the AP asked the Navy about Harley’s conduct.

— Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

John Lewis, lion of civil rights and Congress, dies at 80

He was best known for leading 600 protesters in the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Comet streaking past Earth, providing spectacular show

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet in March.

Boeing has settled almost all Lion Air crash-death claims

The company didn’t say how much it paid the families of the people killed in the 2018 Indonesia crash.

Supreme Court: LGBT people protected from job discrimination

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Boeing, suppliers plunge on stop-and-go 737 Max comeback

An uptick in Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has added to concerns that airlines face a prolonged recovery

Boeing goes another month without a single airliner order

Airlines are canceling thousands of flights while passengers remain too scared to fly.

Bellevue couple’s nightmare: Held in China, away from daughter

Chinese officials want the man’s father to return from the U.S. to face 20-year-old embezzling charges.

Airbus CEO warns workers it’s bleeding cash and needs cuts

Both Airbus and Boeing are preparing for job cuts as they gauge the depth of the downturn.

U.S. unsure it can meet deadline to disburse funds to tribes

The department hasn’t determined whether unique Alaska Native corporations are eligible for a share.

As people stay home, Earth turns wilder and cleaner

“There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans.”

Trump, Congress scramble to revive virus-hunting agency

In 2019 it was without a permanent leader, and in the Trump administration’s budget-slashing sights.

Virus casts a dark cloud over once-thriving home market

Shutdown orders have halted open houses, sellers are delaying listings and buyers are losing their jobs.