The 14th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy turned subordinates into waiters serving him coffee and meals, bellowed and berated his staffers and failed to report a gift bestowed on him as a high-ranking official, Inspector General investigators determined.
Obtained by Navy Times following a Freedom of Information Act request, the IG report into what sailors alleged was a toxic Pentagon post concluded that MCPON Steven S. Giordano “failed to exhibit exemplary conduct” during his brief 96-week reign as the sea service’s senior enlisted leader.
“MCPON yelling at (s)ailors, using profanity towards them, and making jokes at their expense is not a good example of virtuous behavior, does not promote the general welfare of the enlisted persons under MCPON’s charge, and has the capacity to erode any trust and confidence that the (s)ailors may currently possess for the MCPON office," investigators concluded.
At the same time, investigators failed to corroborate allegations that his driver chauffeured him in a government vehicle to the airport for official travel — although he allegedly asked for the royal treatment frequently, only to be told by his staff it wasn’t allowed.
Now retired and living near Washington, D.C., attempts by Navy Times to reach Giordano by telephone and email were unsuccessful.
The probe into Giordano’s leadership style began with a May 24 complaint from a member of his Pentagon staff.
He resigned from his post less than a month later, following a cascade of Navy Times stories detailing allegations about his hair trigger temper and accusations that he behaved like a Hollywood diva.
Investigators interviewed Giordano and 13 unnamed witnesses, including past and present members of his staff, a chief petty officer, two fleet master chiefs and two command master chiefs, according to the report.
Multiple staffers told investigators that Giordano, 47, was a difficult boss, with one witness describing a typical workday as "walking on eggshells in the office in order to avoid upsetting MCPON.”
Another witness complained that Giordano was “easily irritated" and "always frustrated,” to the point that he was “continually irritated, and a single irritation would be a cause for a distraction for the rest of the day.”
Investigators highlighted one incident in 2018, when witnesses said Giordano unleashed a “profanity-laced outburst towards a staff member who tended to being on the receiving end of his anger,” according to the report.
“God (expletive) (name redacted) I’m (expletive) sick and tired of hearing of your computer problems," Giordano was quoted as bellowing. “Who the (expletive) is the computer guy who’s supposed to fix this? I’m tired of hearing of your computer problems.”
During his interview with investigators, Giordano conceded that “he may have raised his voice a couple of times” with the sailor but “denied shouting, yelling, or using abusive language," according to the report.
Investigators also explored Giordano’s conduct outside the Pentagon, pointing to a 2018 Navy Flag Officer and Senior Executive Service Symposium in Leesburg, Viriginia, when the MCPON “yelled at (redacted) and placed his hand in (redacted) face in a disrespectful manner.”
A witness to the outburst told investigators that watching Giordano screaming at a fellow chief made him think “this guy is (expletive) crazy."
He wondered why the MCPON “can’t just listen for a second and why he feels so — such a need to control” others, according to the report.
The witness testified that Giordano’s treatment of the unidentified chief “demeaned the MCPON position.”
Other witnesses spoke of Giordano relishing coffee and on multiple occasions summoned his staff to fetch him a cup.
During a March 2018 visit to Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, to meet with Rear Adm. Michael Bernacchi, personnel put out a spread of doughnuts and coffee “in a self-serve manner," a sailor told investigators.
All the others at the meeting, including the admiral, stopped at the table and served themselves on their way into the session — except Giordano, who "entered the room, walked past the coffee and doughnuts and sat down in his seat,” a witness said.
Then the MCPON “leaned back and said, ‘I’d like some coffee,’” according to the report.
Multiple witnesses told investigators that a sailor served Giordano his coffee.
During his IG interview, the former MCPON “remembered seeing doughnuts on the table, but he could not remember if he had coffee.”
Investigators also pointed to an alleged Feb. 28, 2018 episode when Giordano’s driver was ferrying him in his government vehicle to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A sailor testified that MCPON told the other passengers that he hadn’t had his morning coffee, so the driver pulled over at a shop along the route. Giordano handed the sailor cash, saying, “I like cream and sugar in my coffee.”
The witness told investigators that he “interpreted this as an order and went inside to purchase the MCPON’s coffee."
Similar coffee pit stops pepper the IG report.
Investigators also looked into an alleged incident at a 2018 Sailor of the Year picnic, when Giordano directed a staffer to fetch him a plate of chow because he was busy talking to others, investigators wrote.
When interviewed by IG auditors, Giordano said that he never “directed any of the MCPON staff to stop the vehicle to purchase him coffee, noting that it was usually a mutual event.”
“There have been times that we have — we’ll go on trips and the team will say, ‘Hey, do you want to stop and get some coffee?’ and I’ll be like... ‘okay, well, let’s go ahead and we’ll stop and get some coffee,’” Giordano told investigators
"I would always pay for my own coffee and all that kind of stuff," he said.
Giordano also denied ever ordering staffers to fetch his food, but instead recalled someone volunteering to bring him chow, plus a meal for one of the people in the conversation, according to the report.
Investigators determined that Giordano failed a to report the gift of an elaborate challenge coin minted to resemble a charge book vessel.
A charge book vessel often includes a list of infractions committed during a chief’s initiation and is signed by master chiefs and high-ranking officers, becoming a treasured keepsake of a CPO.
This coin was valued at more than $100, investigators wrote.
Giordano was accused of becoming so enamored with the gift that he told his staff not to report it , assuring them that he would safeguard it in his office, according to the IG report.
But Giordano denied that ever happened, telling investigators that his intentions likely were misinterpreted.
“I may have said, you know, ‘Make sure this gets back to the office.’ That doesn’t mean, you know, 'Take it and put it in MCPON’s office somewhere,’ that means “take it back to the office for processing,” he said.
IG recommended “corrective action by MCPON’s supervisory chain, as deemed appropriate.”
In November, service spokesman Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey told Navy Times that “Giordano received verbal counseling about the findings of the report,” which was dated Aug. 21.
By that time, Navy superiors already had approved Giordano’s retirement, greenlighting him to start terminal leave before he retired from the service.
In the wake of his exit, however, IG recommended that the Navy should “establish official written roles, duties, and responsibilities of MCPON staff members” and that the annual Pentagon “standards of conduct guidance” should be updated to “clearly state its application to the MCPON staff.”
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.