A naval investigation that led to the dismissal of an award-winning government attorney began at the instigation of two employes the attorney frequently had reprimanded, according to federal court papers.
Documents released by the Navy at the insistence of attorneys for Stephen Stokwitz show that the employes told investigators that Stokwitz coerced them to lend him money, cheated on a travel voucher and said he had sex in his office and used cocaine.
Based on the allegations and without a formal hearing, Stokwitz was told Oct. 10 that his services were "no longer required."
Stokwitz, who held a GS-15 position as general counsel of the Navy Ocean Systems Center here, has denied the charges. He has filed papers alleging that his former employes, secretary Kay Talley and attorney Mary Waldsmith, lied to investigators to avenge reprimands he had given them for unsatisfactory work.
"Two people who have reasons to come after me have destroyed my life," Stokwitz said. He said he has been unable to find other work and soon will be forced to sell his house while awaiting court action on his request for reinstatement and at least $1 million in damages.
The spokesman for the Navy Ocean Systems Center, a research center, has declined to comment on the case because it is in court. He said today that he had checked with Waldsmith and Talley and that neither wished to comment.
The court documents provide the first detailed account of the Navy's case against Stokwitz. Reports of his dismissal, and alleged government leaks hindering his search for a new job, have led to a congressional probe of the lack of protection for "excepted-service" government employes such as Stokwitz.
Under federal laws designed to increase efficiency in hiring and firing, excepted-service specialists such as attorneys may be hired without competitive examinations, but they also may be fired without cause or a chance to question their accusers.
A spokesman for Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.), whose office is preparing legislation to give such employes more protection, said that more than a million federal employes serve under excepted-service rules.
According to court documents, Stokwitz's supervisor, with whom he also had several disagreements, began the investigation after hearing allegations from Waldsmith, an attorney who worked for Stokwitz.
According to Waldsmith's statement to naval investigators, Stokwitz told her that "his consumption of cocaine had been great" and that "he experienced paranoid episodes" when the drug wore off. She quoting him as saying, "I met a gal and brought her up to the office and we spent the night and sorta messed around," which she said "to me connoted that he had a sexual liaison in his office."
She said she had seen documents in his office proving that he had cashed a government check for an airplane ticket he never used because of his fear of flying. She said he was "being dunned by creditors for delinquent accounts" and had forced her once to lend him $100.
Stokwitz's secretary, Kay Talley, who also spoke to Stokwitz's supervisor, later told investigators that she had copied his personal papers at his orders using government equipment. She said Stokwitz spoke of his use of cocaine, made personal calls without reimbursing the government and missed work because of "episodic drinking bouts."
In statements filed in federal court here, Stokwitz said he had reprimanded Waldsmith for giving incorrect information and violating instructions and had asked her to stop playing the game Trivial Pursuit in the office. He said she became angry with him at least 20 times in the few months before his dismissal for editing her drafts of official letters, and "literally stopped speaking to me" in August.
Talley, he said, was reprimanded several times for typing mistakes, leaving work early, sloppy photocopying and pursuing her hobby of handwriting analysis at work. He said he halved a merit raise due her when she lost an official correspondence file.