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Investigation finds former DODEA director abused her authority

UPDATED:  JUNE 13, 4:25 P.M.

WASHINGTON — An investigation has concluded that the former head of the Defense Department’s school system abused her power to secure jobs for relatives and friends, received pay and benefits to which she was not entitled and engaged in “unprofessional conduct and speech,” according to a letter from the Defense Department Inspector General’s office.

Shirley Miles was removed as director of the Department of Defense Education Activity a year ago amid an inquiry into numerous allegations raised by her former assistant Belinda Croteau.

Miles was transferred elsewhere in the Defense Department and put in charge of a project to make all certificate or graduate education degree-granting programs available online. Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Monica Matoush declined to reveal Miles’ current salary, saying only that as an SE-3, it falls within a range of $119,500 to $179,700.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Inspector General’s office said six allegations against Miles were ultimately confirmed:

-Advocating for and causing the hiring of a relative;

-Engaging in prohibited personnel practices by providing an impermissible preference to and selecting a  personal acquaintance for employment with DODEA;

-Traveling on temporary duty on flights ticketed with other than City-Pair fares on the lowest available Government fare;

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-Claiming and receiving credit pay on one occasion for time in duty status when on leave;

-Claiming and being paid in one instance for per diem expenses to which she was not entitled; and

-Engaging in unprofessional conduct and speech.

Other allegations against Miles were not substantiated, according to the letter, which was dated June 8.

"It’s disturbing to see so many violations of the public trust from a civil servant,” Grassley said. “Now that the investigation is completed, thanks to an inspector general, and serious allegations are substantiated, the agency should follow through to seek accountability from everyone responsible. Accountability and repercussions are necessary to move forward with what I hope is better leadership.”

Miles, however, had a different view of the Inspector General’s conclusions.

“I knew I would be exonerated of most of the four pages of false allegations!  I just didn’t think it would take this long,” she said in a written statement to Stars and Stripes. “There were no procurement violations, no contractor violations, no abuse of authority, no arranging retreats at luxury spas, no misuse of government credit cards, no bypassing veterans, no Hatch Act violations, never a red computer or any other computers except for the one the previous director left and a number of other false allegations that were unsubstantiated.”

Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley is currently reviewing the investigation’s findings, Matoush said Monday.

In September 2009, Croteau went to the Inspector General’s office alleging that Miles had arranged for her daughter-in-law Stephanie Ermel to get a job as a kindergarten teacher at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, bypassing veterans and other qualified candidates.

“Anything for Stephanie yet?” Miles wrote in an email that Croteau provided to the Inspector General’s office. “My son is bugging me, they want to get married in July!!!”

Croteau provided other emails that showed Miles and Paul Dellacroce talking about his application for a superintendent position in Europe. The two referred to each other as “city girl” and “country boy” even though Miles claimed not to have any connections with him at the time.

Croteau also alleged that Miles harassed DODEA staff members whom she disliked and that Miles demanded that she be booked on flights that exceeded the rate permitted by the government on several trips. In one instance, she allegedly tried to book flights to Bahrain through Dubai even though it was an unauthorized route because she wanted to vacation in Dubai.

“It is gratifying that this long arduous process has resulted in substantiated allegations because the offenses that I witnessed were so egregious and so blatant,” Croteau said on Monday.

jeffrey.schogol@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @JeffSchogol

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