Gunston Hall command master chief was removed for 'pattern of sexual harassment'
NORFOLK, Va. — Six months into a long deployment to the Middle East last year, the top enlisted sailor aboard the Navy ship Gunston Hall jotted a Web address onto a Post-it note and handed it to a lower-ranking female sailor.
"SwingerLifestyle.com," it read.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer Kelly Smith gave her the link to the kinky dating site, the woman later told a Navy investigator, after suggesting she attend a party where couples can "swing," or swap spouses.
Her sworn statement was included in a newly released investigative report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act. The internal investigation, which was launched after the woman showed the note to another sailor, revealed "a pattern of sexual harassment and fraternizing behavior" by Smith.
The ship's commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Loiselle, removed Smith from his leadership post within days last September. Smith, who has been serving shore duty in Norfolk since then, accepted nonjudicial punishment, also known as captain's mast, and is in the process of voluntarily retiring after 23 years.
Smith declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement to the Navy investigator, however, he admitted sharing the website but denied coming on to the sailor. Smith told the investigator his wife had used the website to book a vacation to Jamaica and, later, a cruise. The website includes a travel page with links to swinger resorts and cruises, but Smith denied ever engaging in spouse-swapping.
He gave the Web link to a subordinate and suggested she book a trip, he told the investigator, to help save her troubled marriage.
The woman, whose name was redacted from the report, met with Smith in his office aboard the Gunston Hall for a checkout interview before transferring off the ship. She told him serving had been hard on her marriage, according to her statement.
"The (command master chief) started talking about his sexual orientation," the sailor said in her written statement. "He informed me he and [name redacted] were swingers. He stated he had attended 'swinger parties' and did not realize how many sailors were swingers."
In the military, adultery is a criminal offense, punishable by up to a year in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Smith told the woman he thought she was hot, the sailor wrote in her statement. Before leaving, she wrote, Smith gave her the code to enter his private office and told her she could use it to study.
A few days later, the woman showed the Post-it note to another sailor, who turned it over to an officer aboard the ship.
The subsequent investigation, which included a search of Smith's Navy email account, revealed a series of interactions with sailors and other women that "calls into question his character," the report stated.
Among the findings:
- Smith told a civilian employee he would cancel a meeting if the employee agreed to flash him.
- Smith received a photo from a female sailor and responded by writing, "Maybe something a little more sexy."
- Smith frequently emailed love notes to a woman who was not his wife. Examples included, "I miss you honey," "You know you will always be mine," and "I still have the ring you gave me on my finger."
- Smith misled the investigator about the nature of SwingerLifestyle.com, which includes lewd sexual content and allows users to create profiles to meet other swingers.
The investigator concluded there was evidence to suggest that "an inappropriate relationship of some sort existed between Smith and other subordinate sailors." Also, according to the report, evidence suggested that the woman who initially came forward was likely not the first sailor Smith recruited.
In his interview with the investigator, Smith denied having a sexual relationship with anyone other than his wife.