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Drunkenness, sexual advances derail 1-star

Sep. 20, 2008 - 07:23AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 20, 2008 - 07:23AM  |  
Rear Adm. Charles Goddard
Rear Adm. Charles Goddard (NAVY)
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After a margarita at the bar and two shots of tequila, Rear Adm. Charles H. "Chuck" Goddard was having trouble keeping his hands to himself.

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After a margarita at the bar and two shots of tequila, Rear Adm. Charles H. "Chuck" Goddard was having trouble keeping his hands to himself.

Goddard, then the Navy's program executive officer for ships, was drinking in San Diego in February with two longtime friends, both men, and a woman who worked for him at Naval Sea Systems Command. They were celebrating the day's christening of the Military Sealift Command cargo ship Robert E. Peary.

The admiral, who is married, had been putting his arm around the woman and brushing against her legs, she later told Navy investigators. She tried to overlook it, telling herself there was no way to stand up to her boss without making a scene, and that she should just "take one for the team."

But a little later, as the four of them sat around a table eating dinner, "she felt an unmistakable warm, socked foot pushed between [her] legs with the toes making an effort to push forward further. [She] immediately reached down with [her] left hand, grabbed the foot, realized the direction from which it was coming, and looked up to see RDML Goddard wink at [her], giving her a wide smile."

According to a report by the Navy Inspector General, the admiral's overtures were part of a whole evening of alcohol-fueled sexual advances, the latest such night in a string of them during official trips around the country. The report — obtained Sept. 11 by Navy Times though a Freedom of Information Act request — describes a flag officer who drank so much and made so many unwelcome advances toward women that his subordinates had to step in to divert him from women. At one point, they resorted to "standing guard" to make sure he didn't leave his hotel room after he had gone to bed drunk.

He did not return a message seeking comment. The IG began looking into the matter after receiving an anonymous tip May 1.

After the IG's office sought out testimony and substantiated the complaint from the woman in San Diego and others, Goddard was fired July 3 from his position as the Navy's top shipbuilder. He was reassigned to the staff of the chief of naval operations and went before an admiral's mast July 18, convened by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Patrick Walsh.

Walsh pronounced Goddard guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and gave him a punitive letter of reprimand, said Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the Navy's top spokesman.

Goddard had filed the paperwork for retirement June 10, after admitting to investigators he had been too drunk to clearly remember what had happened with the woman in San Diego. He requested to retire by Dec. 1. That is still under consideration, Thorp said, as is the issue of the rank at which Goddard would retire.

Thorp said that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead will review Goddard's case and make a recommendation to Navy Secretary Donald Winter about the rank at which Goddard can retire, which determines the amount of retirement he will collect.

Goddard's star had been on the rise. He was nominated for a second star in May 2007, but that promotion was held up amid the Inspector General's investigation. A 1978 Naval Academy graduate with a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Goddard spent his career as an engineering duty officer, working his way up through NavSea.

Among other jobs, Goddard was a supervisor of shipbuilding; program manager for the DD(X) destroyer program, as it was then known; and vice chief of NavSea before becoming PEO Ships in February 2007. He took over after his predecessor, Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton, was fired over cost overruns in the Littoral Combat Ship program, as well as other problems.

Navy Times' copy of the Goddard IG report was redacted to omit the names of the colleagues and subordinates involved with Goddard's actions, many of whom still work at NavSea.

But it did include many details of how he behaved on trips in his official capacity to see ships christened or commissioned. And it also included the admission by Goddard that his drinking was out of control, after initially claiming that he didn't have a problem. He told investigators he had thrown out all his liquor at home and was working to get sober, and added that his drinking may have related to stress at his job as PEO Ships.

The report also paints the picture of several subordinates who were hesitant to report the wrongdoings of a popular admiral.

Gringo's incident

At the February dinner at Gringo's, a Mexican restaurant in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach, Goddard's overtures were relentless, the woman testified. After excusing herself to escape to the ladies' room, she typed a frantic message on her BlackBerry to a friend in Virginia.

The subject line, as quoted in the IG report: "omigosh omigosh."

The body of the message: "Goddard hitting on me. Not sure how to handle. Help."

She stayed in the restroom for what she thought was a long time, then ventured back outside. Goddard was waiting for her in the hallway, she remembered.

"You're going to get caught," she told Goddard.

"Don't worry, they're cool," she remembered him saying, referring to the other members of their party sitting at the table.

As the night progressed, they migrated to different bars in the neighborhood. Goddard continued putting his hands on the woman, according to the report, at one point sliding his hand up and inside her shirt, toward her breast. To avoid "further pawing," as she put it, the woman took turns dancing with Goddard and their other companions on a crowded dance floor in another bar, as everyone in the party continued drinking beer and tequila. Finally, it was time to go. Goddard was the last to bid the woman good night.

He gave her a "really tight hug." He pulled slightly away and then pulled her back toward him, she said, "kissing her on the mouth for a split second before he pushed his tongue into her mouth," the report said. "She froze, he pulled away, and then they were gone."

Within a few days, the woman had drafted a complaint, but she decided not to submit it, because there had been no more harassing behavior from Goddard and because she considered herself a "team player," who didn't want to upset her workplace by making allegations against the boss. By May, however, the IG had begun investigating a complaint against Goddard made by someone else, and the woman mentioned to Goddard that investigators had approached her with questions about the trip to San Diego.

She told him that she didn't want to tell them about it; she began to cry. "He remarked that he had treated her well since then, and she agreed," the IG report says. He suggested that she tell people they'd just had dinner and drinks with a group of friends.

"It was obvious he wanted to downplay it as much as possible," she told investigators.

‘Unseemly spectacle'

The other allegations that had spurred the IG to look into Goddard's behavior involved a series of similar trips he took to events around the country for the christening or commissioning of new Navy ships. Although the incident in San Diego was the only formal allegation of sexual harassment by a victim in the IG report, other testimony shows similar incidents in a half dozen other trips.

In March 2007, one month after taking over as PEO ships, Goddard visited New Orleans for the commissioning of the amphibious transport dock ship named for the Louisiana city. During a reception aboard a paddle-wheeled riverboat, Goddard drank so much that he declined to join others in seeing Winter off the boat, the report said. Later, in a hotel bar, staff members worried Goddard was creating "an unseemly spectacle" flirting with a woman, so one of them steered him away from her. Goddard acknowledged he should "keep his distance," according to the report.

But later that night, in another bar, he began flirting with another woman, causing his staff members to intervene again. One of them convinced him to go to bed and escorted him to his hotel room, telling investigators that Goddard was "not quite falling down drunk" but in the "wind-wavering state." She left Goddard in his room, went back to her room, and then went down to the hotel bar about 20 minutes later, where she found Goddard. By 1:15 a.m., she had convinced him to go back to his room. She stood guard in the lobby for 45 minutes to make sure he didn't leave again.

On a trip to San Diego in May 2007 for the christening of the cargo ship Richard E. Byrd, a staffer found Goddard in the Hilton bar doing tequila shots — although he said he was in better shape than he had been in New Orleans.

The next month, in Galveston, Texas, for the commissioning of the destroyer Kidd, Goddard was "showing signs of being drunk" during his part of the ceremony, although he was able to make his remarks.

Later, at a reception, his staff steered him away from a woman with whom he was flirting. When the NavSea staffers were back in Washington, one woman complained Goddard had put his hands on her and said she was "shocked and stunned." Another woman said Goddard was "not a gentleman."

To be sure, not all of the colleagues and subordinates quoted in the IG report agree on each detail of Goddard's nights out. The men at the February dinner with Goddard at Gringo's in San Diego said they didn't remember Goddard touching the woman inappropriately, or any contact between them under the table. Alcohol "is part of the social scene, the networking that we do at commissionings and christenings," one person told investigators. Anther said he thought Goddard always drew the line when he'd had enough to drink.

But in the report, Goddard acknowledges he had a drinking problem. After denying that he had behaved inappropriately in New Orleans, he told investigators he had been too drunk to remember what happened, as was the case with the February encounter in San Diego. When he had reversed himself in an interview with Navy officials, Goddard decided the "right thing to do" was to put in for retirement. He showed them a page of his notes from a meeting with a NavSea staffer who was concerned about his behavior.

Written in purple ink, the first bullet point on the page was: "Drinking and official functions don't mix."

Although Goddard's future hasn't been fully decided, the Navy appears to have taken steps to avoid what happened during his tenure.

The new PEO Ships, Rear Adm. Bill Landay, sent a letter to each of his employees this summer, outlining the new guidelines for travel to ship ceremonies. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Navy Times, says that no NavSea employee may travel to a christening or commissioning without written permission.

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