Conduct review clears key general
WASHINGTON — The Marine general considered the leading candidate to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest military post, was investigated and cleared of misconduct involving a young aide, according to results of a Pentagon inquiry released yesterday.
An anonymous accuser claimed General James Cartwright, who is vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, acted inappropriately during a 2009 overseas trip on which the aide traveled as a military assistant. Several sources confirmed that the former aide is a young woman, although her name and pronouns that would reveal her sex are blacked out in the heavily edited Pentagon inspector general’s report. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to describe aspects of the report that were not released.
The inspector general quickly cleared Cartwright of the most serious allegations, which involved claims that he may have had an improper physical relationship with the young woman. The report, completed in March 2010, did find that Cartwright mishandled an incident in which the aide, drunk and visibly upset, visited his Tbilisi, Georgia, hotel room alone and either passed out or fell asleep on a bench at the foot of his bed.
Cartwright claimed he had done nothing wrong and was later cleared of all wrongdoing by the top civilian Navy official.
“The investigation into the anonymous allegations was thorough. He cooperated fully, and when it concluded the allegations were not substantiated,’’ a Cartwright spokesman, Major Cliff W. Gilmore, said yesterday. “General Cartwright believes it’s important to have a system that allows anonymous complaints to be heard and appropriate for leaders, especially at his level, to be open to this degree of scrutiny.’’
Cartwright told investigators that he was working in his hotel suite when the woman entered after 11 p.m. the night of March 30, 2009, and began a conversation. She was seated on the bench, where at least one other aide later saw her slumped and apparently asleep, according to the inspector’s report and interviews with officials knowledgeable about the trip.
The suite functioned as Cartwright’s office, the door was ajar while the woman was inside, and security personnel were nearby. Cartwright, who is 61 and married, told investigators he thought it best to let the woman sleep it off, and she eventually returned to her own room. He said he worked most of the night and got about an hour of sleep.
The inspector general faulted Cartwright for not insisting that the aide leave or be removed.
The report also faulted Cartwright for failing to act on an earlier incident in which the woman also apparently drank too much.
Obama has not announced whom he will nominate to succeed the current Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, when Mullen’s term expires this summer.