General Accused Of Harassment Is Demoted

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By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 9, 2006

An Air Force general who oversaw the career development of senior service leaders will be demoted to colonel and will retire in March after commanders determined he sexually harassed female subordinates, engaged in unprofessional relationships and created a hostile work environment, the Air Force announced yesterday.

According to a military investigation, Brig. Gen. Richard S. Hassan, former director of the Air Force Senior Leader Management Office in Crystal City, made advances toward women in his office, suggested they wear more revealing clothing and change their appearances, and sent sexually explicit e-mail and graphic photographs to them via his government computer.

A redacted copy of the Air Force inspector general's report obtained by The Washington Post said Hassan, 53, violated several military policies and appeared not to believe his actions were harassment.

Women who reported the harassment said the general had a fondness for looking at and touching their feet and legs, even suggesting a specific brand of pantyhose for them to wear and asking them to don skirts instead of slacks in the office. The women also said Hassan attempted to initiate romantic relationships.

Hassan's attorney, Air Force Col. James Sinwell, declined to comment.

Hassan's departure from the Air Force is the second case of a high-ranking officer losing his job because of sexual harassment over the past year. Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, then the service's top lawyer, was demoted after he was found to be having inappropriate relationships with subordinates; he retired a year ago.

The high-profile investigations came as the Air Force has been taking steps to reduce sexual harassment within the ranks, especially at the military service academies, where studies identified pervasive sexual discrimination. Hassan and Fiscus avoided public courts-martial by accepting nonjudicial punishments.

Service officials confirmed that Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of the Air Force Space Command, issued a written reprimand to Hassan in October for engaging in an unprofessional relationship, sexually harassing his subordinates and maltreatment of a subordinate. Hassan also was fined $2,000.

His demotion to colonel means he will forfeit more than $514,000 in retirement pay. Capt. David W. Small, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said Hassan will retire March 1 after a 27-year career.

"The Air Force takes allegations of misconduct by airmen of any rank seriously, investigates the allegations fully, and takes appropriate action," Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said in a written statement. "General Hassan has now been held accountable for his actions."

Women in Hassan's office complained that he pressured them into inappropriate relationships. One woman told investigators that Hassan, who is married, made a number of visits to her apartment for drinks, tried several times to kiss her and would settle instead for giving foot massages.

Hassan told investigators he was mentoring junior officers and trying to help them improve professionally, adding that he in no way believed any of his contact with subordinates was sexual or suggestive. Hassan told investigators he meant no harm by forwarding nude photos and off-color jokes via e-mail.

"Unequivocally I can tell you none of these things were sent out in some suggestive form regardless of how you might interpret that," Hassan told investigators. "I mean the intent was funny and all of them thought those kinds of things were funny."

One Air Force officer, whose name was redacted in the report, told investigators she spent hundreds of dollars each month to change the her hair color and to get her nails done after he suggested she do so. When women turned Hassan away or complained about his actions, he would then ostracize them, the report said.

"Since he is perceived to be a man of considerable power and influence within the highest levels of Air Force senior leadership, testimony indicates subordinates felt they must 'please' Brig. Gen. Hassan or their lives and careers would somehow be negatively impacted," the report said.

A female officer who worked in Hassan's office said in a recent interview that she had significant emotional trauma as a result of the office environment.

"It was very difficult to go to work," said the officer, who requested anonymity because she fears reprisal. "It affected us on so many levels."


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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