Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, the Air Force's former top military lawyer, will be retired at the reduced rank of colonel and lose nearly $900,000 in potential retirement pay after an investigation found him involved in several affairs and improper conduct with more than a dozen women, the Air Force announced yesterday.
The punishment comes just months after an anonymous complaint against Fiscus prompted an investigation that unearthed 13 "unprofessional relationships" over 10 years. The Air Force inspector general found that Fiscus was involved in relationships with -- or had made inappropriate sexual advances toward -- female subordinates both at the officer and enlisted level, as well as civilians.
Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus will retire at the rank of colonel and lose about $900,000 in retirement pay.
(U.s. Air Force)
According to an Air Force news release, the incidents involved six active-duty judge advocates, two paralegals, one civilian Defense Department employee and four other civilians. The Air Force's inspector general, Steven R. Polk, concluded that the two-star general's actions included conduct unbecoming an officer, engaging in unprofessional relationships, fraternization and obstruction of justice.
"Maj. Gen. Fiscus, a married man, wrongly pursued romantic relationships with several single women," Polk wrote in a 100-page investigative report. Polk later noted that such actions were "below the standards expected of an Air Force officer and gentleman. Additionally, his position as the Air Force's judge advocate general ensured that any such misconduct would bring tremendous disgrace to the armed forces."
Fiscus's legal defense team yesterday released a statement arguing that his improper behavior consisted largely of sending or receiving overly personal e-mail, use of informal or familiar names and inappropriate displays of affection. Fiscus, also in a statement, apologized to his wife and said the couple are going to try to salvage their marriage.
"I am heartbroken that I let the Air Force and JAG Corps down by engaging in several unprofessional relationships with Corps members and non-DoD civilians, including exchanges of inappropriately intimate and familiar email," Fiscus said in the statement. "I also displayed inappropriate affection for two subordinates and a civilian employee. For my improper actions, I am accountable and accept full responsibility. My greatest regret, however, is that I dishonored the woman I love, my wife. I owe her the deepest of all my apologies."
Fiscus, who had reached the top rank possible in his position, served as judge advocate general from February 2002 until he asked to be relieved in September after the allegations against him surfaced. As the Air Force's top lawyer, he supervised 3,200 employees, including more than 1,300 Air Force judge advocates.
Fiscus was accused of having sexual affairs outside of his marriage and with making advances toward his subordinates, sometimes setting up secret meetings in the Washington area and having romantic interludes with women in his Pentagon office. At times he would meet one woman in her apartment, at other times at an Irish pub nearby.
Investigators found a trail of e-mail messages stretching back several years, many of which had strings of suggestive conversations and included "sickening pet names for each other," according to the report. Several times subordinates tried to caution Fiscus or told him to stop outright.
"His actions, for the women he victimized, created a hostile work environment," Polk wrote. "Additionally, in view of his . . . role as the Air Force provider of guidance for the prevention of sexual harassment, Maj. Gen. Fiscus exhibited stunning hypocrisy by his own sexual harassment of JAG Corps subordinates."
The punishment, part of a non-judicial procedure, included Fiscus losing more than $10,000 in pay. The reduction in rank, which removes Fiscus from the retired general officer corps, could mean nearly $900,000 in lost retirement pay. Top Air Force officials reduced his rank two notches because they faulted his performance at both the brigadier general and major general levels.
"The actions of Air Force leadership make it clear that such misconduct will not be tolerated, regardless of the grade or position of the offender," Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, said in a statement.