A charge by the Army's highest-ranking woman that she was sexually harassed by another general has been substantiated by Army investigators, senior defense officials said Thursday.
The finding, in support of an allegation by Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy against Army Maj. Gen. Larry G. Smith, will be reviewed by the Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. John Keane, who will determine whether to take disciplinary action against Smith. Keane also could ask the investigators to look further into the incident, which happened in 1996, and resubmit their report, officials familiar with the case said.
Officials would discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity, reflecting the sensitivity of the matter.
The Army has refused to comment publicly even to confirm Kennedy made an allegation or that Smith is the accused.
"The Army will not comment on stories which speculate about administrative investigations," Maj. Gen. John G. Meyer, the Army's chief of public information, said Thursday. "Inspector-general investigative procedures are designed to encourage candor and protect the individual privacy of all parties."
Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for Defense Secretary William Cohen, also declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the Army.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Smith probably will receive a reprimand and be forced to retire if, as expected, the Army inspector general's findings are accepted by Keane. Smith will be provided a copy of the findings and be given time to offer contrary evidence, officials said today.
A reporter's phone call to the office of Smith's military lawyer, Army Lt. Col. Robert Teetsel, was not returned.
The exact behavior of which Smith is accused has not been made clear. The Post reported that the inspector general found that Smith tried to kiss Kennedy, and that Army officials do not view this as actionable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Smith, who is married, was announced last August as the next deputy inspector general of the Army, a position in which he would be responsible for overseeing investigations of the kind of behavior he is accused of. His status had been on official "hold" since last November, and he is assigned to the Army's Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va.
Kennedy reportedly went to the Army inspector general with her complaint about Smith after the announcement that he was being promoted. The Post reported that Kennedy had hoped to save the Army embarrassment by pursuing the matter discreetly.
Since the case became public in March, neither Kennedy nor Smith has been willing to discuss it publicly.
Army officials said today that Kennedy had no comment on news reports of the inspector general's findings.
The Post said investigators found that while Kennedy did not make a formal complaint of sexual harassment at the time of the incident, she described it to friends and colleagues soon after it occurre. Investigators found the supporting accounts by Kennedy's friends and colleagues to be persuasive.
Kennedy, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, is due to retire in June.
© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.