Army's top enlisted man accused of harassment Female veteran files charges of sexual assault, cover-up by service

February 04, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- A 22-year Army veteran has accused her former boss, the Army's top-ranking enlisted man and a member of the commission charged with reviewing the Army's sexual harassment policies, of sexually assaulting her in her hotel room during a business trip to Hawaii in April. She says at least one senior Army officer tried to cover up the incident.

As a result of the allegations, made in a complaint mailed to the Army on Friday, Gene C. McKinney, the sergeant major of the Army, asked to be excused from his duties on the review panel until the matter is resolved.

Army officials said yesterday that they had granted the request and would investigate the charges when the complaint arrived.

The woman, Sgt. Maj. Brenda L. Hoster, said after she had overcome her initial fears about reporting the incident and had told her superiors at the Pentagon about it about seven weeks later, they had taken no action and had suppressed her complaint. They also ignored her pleas for a job transfer and left her with no choice but to retire early, she said.

Hoster, a 39-year-old Army journalist and public affairs specialist, said she had reluctantly agreed to leave quietly in August, partly "for the good of the Army" and partly because she feared, she said, that no one would believe her if she pressed her case.

But when Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. appointed McKinney, 46, to the senior panel in November, Hoster said, she could no longer stay silent. Not when the man she says kissed her, grabbed her and asked her for sex -- even as his wife was in another room just a few doors away -- was to help set the Army's policies against sexual misconduct.

"It wasn't right," she said in an emotional three-hour interview at her lawyer's office in Denver on Friday. "He doesn't have any business being on that panel."

The sergeant major of the Army -- the senior person of that rank, chosen from among the service's sergeant majors -- is the top adviser to the Army chief of staff, a four-star general, on all matters, from housing to health care, relating to the Army's enlisted soldiers.

Hoster was McKinney's public affairs specialist, responsible for helping him write his speeches and arranging interviews with reporters.

The complaint also suggests that at least one high-ranking Army public affairs officer covered up Hoster's allegations and hid the damaging information from the Army's senior leaders.

The Army said yesterday that McKinney and Col. Robert Gaylord, the deputy chief of Army public affairs who heard Hoster's complaint in June, would have no comment, pending an investigation.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.