Naval Academy scandal stalls official's promotion

June 10, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

The Naval Academy's No. 2 official had his promotion to rear admiral put on hold this week, because of Senate concerns about his role in the investigation of the school's largest cheating scandal.

Navy Secretary John Dalton asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to delay considering the promotion of Capt. John B. Padgett, the Naval Academy's commandant of midshipmen, who was among an estimated 30 nominees considered for promotion to rear admiral.

Mr. Dalton took the step to make sure the other officers on the list were acted on by the committee, which approved the nominees this week, said Capt. Bill Harlow, spokesman for the Navy secretary.

"Right now they're holding [Captain Padgett's] nomination in abeyance. In general there were concerns raised on the handling of the Double E," Captain Harlow said, referring to the cheating scandal surrounding the Electrical Engineering 311 exam.

The scandal implicated 134 midshipmen, leading to the punishment of 64 and the expulsion of 24 members of this year's graduating class.

A Navy Inspector General's report noted delays and missteps by academy officials in their investigation that was termed "botched," by Sen. Richard Shelby, D-Ala., a committee member. Under questioning by senators in February, the Navy's inspector general, Vice Adm. David M. Bennett, said academy officials seemed intent on ending the investigation rather than getting to the bottom of the scandal.

Reports of cheating surfaced the day the exam was administered on Dec. 14, 1992. Two days later, according to the Navy inspector general's report, Captain Padgett met with the academy's superintendent, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch. The captain said that his conversations with the midshipmen "led him to believe the report was not credible."

In a statement, Captain Padgett said the academy's administration "worked hard to determine the full scope of the compromise."

"I look forward to the opportunity to fully support the Senate's review of my role in this matter," he said. "I am confident that this review will show my role to be proper and correct, fully supporting the mission of the Naval Academy."

Captain Harlow was uncertain when Secretary Dalton would ask the committee to consider the commandant's nomination. The promotion also would have to be approved by the full Senate.

The cheating scandal also has stalled the career of Admiral Lynch, who has been offered lateral transfers rather than his anticipated promotion to vice admiral and command of a fleet.

Captain Padgett, a 1969 academy graduate and former submarine officer, has been commandant at the academy since mid-1992.

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