Pentagon’s Watchdog Is Pressed Over a Delayed Harassment Probe

Two Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Pentagon’s inspector general to explain why a 16-month investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against the Navy’s former auditor general hasn’t been completed.

Ronnie J. Booth, a 32-year veteran of Navy auditing assignments until he retired last year after the watchdog’s probe began, directed about 340 employees and managed a $47 million annual operating budget.

Booth had been accused of a “pattern of harassment, retaliation and hostility in the workplace” that has been “documented at length in multiple sources” dating to 2007, Representative Jackie Speier of California wrote in a July 2019 letter to then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. Booth was designated auditor general in February 2019.

Despite Booth’s resignation, “your office pledged to continue investigating his alleged pattern of harassment, retaliation, and hostility in the workplace and related concerns, including whether Navy leadership knew of these allegations and seriously investigated them prior to elevating Mr. Booth to Auditor General,” Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote Thursday to acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell.

Pentagon IG spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said the investigation is ongoing. Attempts to reach Booth through the inspector general’s office and via phone and email weren’t successful. Before his resignation, Booth referred questions about the accusations to Navy officials.

Though “pleased that your office is conducting an examination,” the lawmakers wrote that they “are deeply concerned by the timeline of the investigation.”

Gillibrand is the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel and takes an active role in pushing the military leadership to be more aggressive preventing, reducing and investigating cases of sexual harassment. Speier, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee, pushed last year for the IG to open the Booth probe.

“We understand the issues involved are complex, but we also believe that the whistle-blowers who took significant risks to raise concerns about Mr. Booth deserve timely action on their concerns,” according to the letter.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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