Mikulski faults probe by academy

June 15, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

An investigation into theft and mismanagement at the U.S. Naval Academy's public works department and complaints of a peeping Tom in a women's locker room has been criticized by U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who says the probe "trivialized" serious allegations.

Vice Adm. David M. Bennett, the Navy's inspector general, told the Maryland senator in a May 27 letter that property was missing but that he could detect no "widespread unethical behavior" during his seven-month review of the department.

He said academy officials have taken steps to correct management problems.

Admiral Bennett also investigated the handling of a voyeur case at the academy last year.

An academy worker was accused of peering at female midshipmen through a hole in a locker room ceiling. The worker, charged with trespassing, resigned immediately and was barred from the academy yard, the admiral reported.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to prosecute, saying evidence was insufficient.

Ms. Mikulski, who called for the investigation in October after complaints from an academy worker, was not satisfied with the admiral's explanations.

"Missing government property, borrowed government property and a 'peeping Tom' are very serious -- and illegal," she said. "And they should be treated seriously, not minimalized and trivialized."

Ms. Mikulski said she still is trying to decide "how to have these concerns addressed thoroughly and seriously, because this report does not."

A Navy spokesman disagreed with her characterization of the findings. "The Navy takes all reports of allegations very seriously," said Cmdr. Stephen Pietropaoli. "They were investigated, and the Naval Academy has taken corrective measures."

Admiral Bennett said four electric heaters costing $1,160 that were issued to the academy in 1986 and 1987 "could not be accounted for."

"Interviews indicated that they were probably disposed of during a building cleanup, but no documentation exists to indicate their actual disposition," the admiral reported.

Meanwhile, the admiral found that public works employees had taken advantage of "a long-standing, informal, nonregulation Public Works Department policy" that allowed them to "borrow government equipment."

Lt. Cmdr. Paul Weishaupt, an academy spokesman, confirmed that employees are no longer allowed to borrow equipment. He also said the women's locker room area has been secured.

The public works employee whose complaints spurred the investigation, called the inspector general's report a "a complete whitewash."

Marion A. Lamb, 40, a maintenance foreman with 19 years' experience in the department, also charged there is a double standard at the department when it comes to wrongdoing.

Low-level workers receive harsher punishment than their superiors, he said.

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