Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Army General William Ward used taxpayer money for personal trips, let his staff rent cars at public expense to take his wife to a spa, and accepted meals and Broadway theater tickets from a Defense Department contractor, according to the department’s inspector general.
Ward, who served as the first commander of Africa Command until last year, “engaged in multiple forms of misconduct related to official and unofficial travel,” wasted government money, and “misused his position,” according to a redacted version of an inspector general’s report obtained today through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Ward’s fate awaits a decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Since leaving Africa Command last year, Ward has served as a special assistant to the Army’s vice chief of staff, according to Army spokesman George Wright. Wright didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Ward.
In an April 23 letter to the inspector general that was cited in the report, Ward denied wrongdoing, saying the disputed trips involved official business for Africa Command.
The inspector general’s investigation found Ward spent public money on trips to New York City in 2010 and Atlanta in 2011 “when the primary purpose was personal,” in violation of federal guidance and military policy, according to the report, which was dated June 26.
The inspector general found Ward allowed his wife to accompany him on military aircraft 15 times “for purposes that were not unquestionably official” and without reimbursing the U.S. Treasury.
“The statement that my wife sat someone down and said to make provisions to take her on every trip is an obvious misrepresentation and character assassination,” Ward wrote. “The portrayal in the allegations that we were ‘hunting’ for reasons for my wife to travel is so misleading as to be false.”
The inspector general found Ward permitted his staff to rent cars at government expense “to run personal errands and to drive Mrs. Ward for unofficial purposes, such as to a spa and a department store,” in violation of federal travel regulations, according to the report.
Ward described the spa trip as “likely a case of stopping off to purchase hair or other grooming products for a family member in Stuttgart or on the continent,” according to his letter.
“It was certainly not as characterized, a day trip to the spa for personal reasons,” the general said.
The inspector general stood by the conclusion, saying Ward’s wife “went to an ‘appointment’ at a spa.”
The inspector general found the 2011 trip to Atlanta and the use of a $700 hotel suite in Bermuda during a refueling stop in May 2010 showed Ward failed to comply with requirements to “protect and conserve resources” and to “exercise prudence in travel.”
Ward accepted “complimentary meals and Broadway show tickets in excess of $20 in value for himself and his wife from a prohibited source with multiple DoD contracts,” in violation of ethics rules, the report found. The name of the “prohibited source” was blacked out.
Ward said in his letter that he didn’t know the source “had business dealings in the defense contract environment and was therefore a ‘prohibited source.’”
The report also found Ward spent more than $34,000 a year on a one-day holiday party held at his residence in 2009 and again in 2010. Ward brought a “protocol specialist” from the U.S. to Stuttgart, Germany, where Africa Command is based, for a month to help organize the party, according to the report.
Ward said use of the specialist “supported a training program and execution requirement for a very important official function.”
The general served as head of Africa Command, the newest of six regional geographic commands, from Oct. 1, 2007, to March 9, 2011.
Panetta is reviewing a variety of disciplinary measures for Ward, with nothing ruled out, according to an Army official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the confidential investigation.
The inspector general called in the report for Army Secretary John McHugh to take “appropriate action” on Ward and conduct additional analysis to determine whether he should reimburse the government for unofficial travel on military aircraft. McHugh also should determine whether Ward should reimburse the government for travel expenses that exceeded government limits, according to the report.
As head of Africa Command, Ward was a four-star general, the highest rank in the Army. He is considered a two-star general in his current position, though no decision has been made on the rank at which he will retire, the official said.
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