POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2011
NORFOLK, Va. » The former commanding officer of a Navy shipyard in Virginia slapped a female worker on the shoulder and regularly yelled at his subordinates while using profanity, intimidating them, a Navy investigative report said.
Capt. Gregory Thomas was permanently removed from command of Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth on Oct. 25 for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
Immediately prior to his assignment at Norfolk, Thomas was commander of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, where he was lauded for improving efficiency and was selected for promotion to rear admiral.
Details of what led to his removal at Norfolk were in a report by the Navy inspector general's office and obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.
Thomas denied slapping the woman. He apologized for some of his comments but denied using profanity.
One unidentified man interviewed by investigators said the pressure to improve performance at the shipyard reached such levels that he feared someone would hurt Thomas.
"He believed that at some point someone was going to 'snap under pressure' being applied by" Thomas, the report said.
The shipyard repairs, overhauls and modernizes ships and submarines. Thomas took command there in September 2010 after the previous commanding officer, Capt. William Kiestler, was removed because of a loss of confidence in him that revolved around critical maintenance work and declining performance.
Navy investigators received a complaint about Thomas being abusive toward subordinates in April and temporarily reassigned him in May while it investigated the allegations.
From June 2007 to September 2010, Thomas served as commander of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, where the Navy touted his experience improving efficiency to return ships and submarines to the fleet on time, on budget and with high-quality repairs.
When he left Pearl Harbor, Thomas received a Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service.
The investigative report said Thomas set an uncompromising high standard and that he inferred to investigators that his style caused some bruised egos among his management team. He said there was resentment among some of them for his hands-on, detail-oriented approach.
The report noted several people interviewed by investigators found that Thomas always acted in a professional manner. Of 45 witnesses who were interviewed, nine said they were subjected to demeaning, insulting or profane language or intimidating behavior. The report noted one person cried after being told by Thomas over the telephone that she was the worst administrative person he'd ever seen. It was such a loud conversation that at least one other person could overhear what Thomas said.
"It is clear from the evidence presented, that many of the individuals identified above suffered unwarranted personal or professional embarrassment," the report said. "His frequent use of profanity, yelling, intimidation, and threats of firing while addressing their performance of assigned duties was injurious to their sensibilities and not what a reasonable man would expect to have to endure from their leader."
In one case a woman said Thomas hit her on the left shoulder several times after approaching her to speak about a late inspection for the submarine USS Norfolk.
"I did not harshly pound (redacted) on the shoulder as I am alleged to have done sometime in February," Thomas wrote to investigators through his lawyer. "I adamantly deny the allegation. It did not happen."