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Navy’s top auditor to retire under sexual harassment allegations

By TONY CAPACCIO | Bloomberg News | Published: September 6, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The Navy’s auditor general, under investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general for alleged sexual harassment, has told his staff he plans to retire and has been transferred in the meantime.

Ronnie J. Booth, the auditor general, informed his staff of the moves this week. He said in an email labeled an “all-hands” alert that he’s been reassigned as a “special assistant” to Navy Under Secretary Thomas Modly “for a period not to exceed 30 days.”

Booth has 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, Rep. Jackie Speier wrote in a July 16 letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Modly. Booth was promoted to his current job in February despite Navy leaders being aware of the accusations, said Speier, a California Democrat who heads the House Armed Services military personnel panel.

In an Aug. 29 response to Speier, Spencer said that at the time of Booth’s selection as auditor general “there was no documented, substantiated evidence” of alleged improper behavior. Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine initiated an official investigation July 26 that remains open.

“We are confident that the DoD IG will thoroughly investigate these claims, and we will fully support the DoD IG as it moves forward with its investigation,” Spencer wrote of the probe, which was first reported by Bloomberg News.

While Booth hasn’t responded directly to the allegations, he said in an email to his staff in August that the Navy takes “all such allegations seriously” and that the service secretary has “referred these allegations to the entities with appropriate investigational jurisdiction.”

Booth’s reassignment took effect Sept. 1, according to an official who works for Modly and asked not to be identified discussing the issue. The official said in an email that Booth informed his staff that he intends to retire and that Caral Spangler, a Marine Corps budget planning official, has been named the Navy’s acting auditor general.

The official referred further questions to Booth, who said by phone on Wednesday that he was in a meeting and couldn’t talk. He didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.

Booth, a 32-year veteran of Navy auditing assignments, directed more than 300 employees as auditor general and managed a $47 million annual operating budget. He has received awards throughout his auditing career, including the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award and the Navy’s Superior Civilian Service Award, according to an official biography.

According to Speier’s letter, the auditor allegedly demonstrated a “pattern of behavior, in which Mr. Booth offers to mentor female subordinates, suggests he meet them, outside of work hours, arranges travel with the women and subsequently makes inappropriate advances on them.”

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