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Officer Accused of Harassment Later Nominated for Top Post

By Paul Richter
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

A two-star general accused of groping a female peer later was nominated for the Army’s No. 2 investigative post, defense officials acknowledged Thursday, raising questions about whether military leaders had dealt appropriately with the woman’s explosive allegations.

Maj. Gen. Larry G. Smith, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was nominated to be the Army’s deputy inspector general last Aug. 27, even though Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy had complained three years earlier that Smith had touched her inappropriately during a brief encounter in her Pentagon office.

In the inspector general post, Smith would oversee investigations of improper conduct, including sexual harassment.

Kennedy, a military intelligence specialist and the Army’s highest-ranking woman, raised the issue with at least one superior in 1996, then went to her superiors again informally last fall in hopes of quietly persuading them that Smith was not suited for the investigative post, several officers said.

Though she hoped to avoid a full-scale investigation, her allegations set off a formal inquiry by the Army inspector general. Smith, meanwhile, has been assigned temporary duty at the Army Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va.

Some female Army officers said Smith’s nomination has raised concern that the Army leadership remains an “old boy’s club” in which well-liked male officers can rise in rank, despite sexual misconduct allegations.

“This is the old way, and I’d hate to find out that it’s the current way as well,” said one female Army officer who requested anonymity.

Others close to the investigation, however, said there is no evidence to suggest that the leadership deliberately ignored relevant allegations in proposing Smith for the investigative job.

Army and Defense Department officials continued to refuse comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

The disclosure of Smith’s identity is particularly embarrassing because it is the second time in two years that an officer accused of sexual misconduct has been chosen to serve as deputy inspector general.

Maj. Gen. David R. E. Hale was already deputy inspector general when it was revealed that he had had sexual relations with the wives of subordinates.

Inspector jobs have usually been reserved for officers with records above reproach, one officer noted.