General denies abuse charges in Minnesota report
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Minnesota Governor’s Office has released a report detailing a pattern of alleged sexual harassment, whistle-blower retribution and other inappropriate behavior by the former commander of the state’s National Guard.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Eugene R. Andreotti retired in August after state officials began looking into the allegations. As the state’s adjutant general, Andreotti served as the Guard’s top commander since 1988. Andreotti strenuously denies the allegations.
The report, obtained by Stars and Stripes, was launched after the governor’s office received two formal complaints against the general, and the investigation expanded as more witnesses came forward alleging impropriety.
The 58-page report, dated Aug. 1, 2003, and prepared by the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations over five months, details a pattern of “substantiated” abuse, including:
• Making unwanted sexual overtures toward at least two female subordinates. In one case, Andreotti allegedly repeatedly invited one junior officer for a late-night swim in his hotel suite Jacuzzi during a deployment to Puerto Rico.
• Several witnesses reported that Andreotti regularly massaged the backs, shoulders and hands of women in his units — and the wives of his troops — without their consent.
• Several alleged Andreotti routinely told off-color, sexual-oriented jokes. One witness complained that the general threw ice down her blouse during a Guard social event in Duluth.
• Many witnesses claimed there was a climate of fear of retribution on speaking out against Andreotti’s behavior.
The report did not substantiate allegations of sexual affairs between Andreotti and Guard members or an oft-repeated story that one female Guard member was seen sucking his toe during a party in Washington, D.C.
Andreotti denies all the allegations. Although he and his attorney, Thomas Plunkett, declined to be interviewed, Plunkett did offer a written statement from Andreotti, claiming the report and the allegations against him are politically motivated.
“I am disappointed by the numerous errors in this report and saddened by the false impression it is intended to make,” reads Andreotti’s statement. “I am frustrated by a process that is obviously driven more by political agendas than a finding of fact.”
A 20-page rebuttal to the report prepared for Andreotti by retired Minnesota district Judge Patrick W. Fitzgerald claims, “The investigation appears to have originated with the spouse of a colonel who is reported to have become disenchanted when her husband was removed as wing commander due to his failure to follow direct orders.”
Fitzgerald wrote, “There has never been a formal complaint of harassment made against Gen. Andreotti,” and challenged nearly all of the report’s findings as not being supported by facts.
Others, however, apparently disagree.
One military lawyer for the Minnesota Guard “reported being aware of 60 to 80 women who had been ‘seriously impacted’ by sexual harassment in the [Minnesota National Guard] in the last seven or eight years, with at least half of those being directly related to behavior by General Andreotti,” according to the state’s report.
“This witness stated that the episodes often are either not reported because of fear of retaliation or reported to supervisors or commanders who do not provide meaningful response out of their own fear of retaliation,” reads the report.
In the wake of the state report, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has ordered a new investigation on the command climate within the Minnesota National Guard by Andreotti’s successor, Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, according to Minnesota Guard spokesman Col. Denny Shields.
Shellito, said Shields, had only read the state’s report late Wednesday.
“We just got a copy of it,” said Shields.
The report is due to the governor’s office by July 2, said Shields.