Two years before Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson withdrew a pair of SEAL war crimes cases from Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, the one-star was lightly rapped for her ties to corrupt contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis.

Staffers at her own Navy Region Southwest told Navy Times that she was reprimanded by Adm. Phil Davidson in 2017. That was confirmed by senior Pentagon officials who said it had been an open secret in the sea service.

Through her spokesman, Brian O’Rourke, Bolivar declined comment. Navy leaders also decided not to issue a statement on her behalf, citing privacy concerns.

Acting as the Consolidated Disposition Authority meting out punishment in the wake of the Glenn Defense Marine Asia public corruption scandal, Davidson substantiated three of five misconduct allegations against Bolivar and unnamed members of her crew on board the salvage vessel Salvor following a visit to the Malaysian port of Kata Kinabalu in 1998, according to records released to Navy Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

Back then, the career diver was a lieutenant commander in charge of the Salvor, according to Navy records.

Although Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials cloaked her name in the records provided to Navy Times, Davidson’s Aug. 18, 2017, disciplinary letter determined that she wrongfully accepted the improper gifts of a free hotel room, dinner, drinks, entertainment and a golf excursion from Fat Leonard and his now defunct Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

But Davidson also reasoned that Bolivar went on to have “an exemplary career” after she was plied by Fat Leonard and he found “this incident is not reflective of her otherwise superior service to the nation.”

Arguing that Bolivar wasn’t aware of Fat Leonard’s criminal activities, never solicited the gifts from the contractor or requested to take any action that would benefit his company, Davidson refused to recommend that Bolivar show cause for retention.

Instead, he considered her a “significant contributor and valued leader in the Navy” who should remain in a command position.

“I personally addressed this ... through administrative action and consider this matter closed,”concluded Davidson, now at the helm of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar has long been considered an inspirational figure within the Navy for a trailblazing career that broke down barriers on her way to increasingly higher command. (Navy)
Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar has long been considered an inspirational figure within the Navy for a trailblazing career that broke down barriers on her way to increasingly higher command. (Navy)

She’s faced other setbacks recently.

In a stunning series of moves beginning Thursday, CNO Richardson stripped Bolivar of her authority to preside over two court-martial cases tied to SEALs.

He began by dismissing her prosecution of Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, the officer in charge of Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7 during heavy fighting outside the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017.

Military prosecutors had accused him of helping to cover up the stabbing death of an Islamic State prisoner of war by his platoon’s top enlisted sailor, Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher.

But the case against Portier teetered after a military panel of his peers acquitted Gallagher of premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice and other allegations — finding him guilty on the sole charge of posing next to the dead detainee’s body.

The panel recommended a sentence of four months behind bars — he already had served twice that in pretrial confinement — and reduction to the grade of petty officer first class.

Gallagher’s defense team appealed to Bolivar to restore his anchors and allow the highly decorated SEAL to retire after two decades of service, but she telegraphed in a letter dated Friday to his civilian defense attorney, Timothy Parlatore, a harsher outcome.

She suggested that factors such as witness intimidation, interference with the administration of justice, the effect of deferment on the good order and discipline on the command and Gallagher’s character could be considered, and that Parlatore’s plea “fails to satisfy” those concerns.

It remained unclear if Bolivar was embracing the witness intimidation charge rejected by the military jury or reacting to an often incendiary Instagram account helmed by Andrea Gallagher, the SEAL’s wife, who continues to label as liars a handful of special operators who testified against her husband.

But now that case is out of her hands and before CNO, who is slated to retire by the end of August.