A retired rear admiral and former commander of the carrier Ronald Reagan has been censured by the Navy in connection to gifts he took as part of the so-called “Fat Leonard” scandal that continues to echo across the top echelons of the sea service.
Rear Adm. Kenneth Norton received the censure letter from Navy Secretary Richard Spencer after a review of Norton’s interactions with Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the Singaporean company owned by the rotund magnate, Leonard Glenn Francis, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officers with booze, prostitutes and other incentives in exchange for classified information on ship movements.
Francis used the intel to secure lucrative port servicing contracts with the Navy.
Norton interacted with Francis’s company from 2008 to 2010, when Norton commanded the Japan-based Reagan in the West Pacific’s 7th Fleet, Navy officials said.
“Norton was found to have repeatedly and improperly accepted gifts from (Glenn Defense Marine Asia),” according to a Navy press release issued Wednesday. “Further, Norton’s personal behavior was found to have constituted conduct unbecoming an officer.”
The release does not state what sort of gifts Norton took, or the nature of his personal misconduct.
Such a censure is largely ceremonial and does not affect retirement or pay, although the Navy can in certain cases revisit such retirement grades.
Norton retired from the Navy in 2014.
The former commanding officer “demonstrated extremely poor judgement and leadership,” according to the release. “More specifically, the review concluded that he intentionally disregarded the ethical standards long established for the naval service and brought ill-repute and disgrace upon the U.S. Navy.”
Spencer said that Norton’s conduct “reflected improper personal behavior and set a wholly unethical tone of leadership.”
“Censure was both necessary and appropriate,” he said.
A Legion of Merit Norton received for commanding the Reagan has been revoked, officials said.
Francis pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in 2015, and the Justice Department has charged 21 active or retired officers.
The Navy is looking at nearly 200 personnel whose alleged Fat Leonard-related transgressions did not rise to the level of federal prosecution, but could be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
As of earlier this month, five Navy officers had been charged with military justice offenses and were waiting to see when the Navy will take them to court martial.
The letter of censure was recommended by the Consolidated Disposition Authority that was created in March 2014 to review Fat Leonard cases passed on by the Justice Department.
In those cases, the initial investigation detected no violation of federal law but found potential ethical or code violations. Evidence was turned over to the Navy for further examination.