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Ward also came under fire for "needless and extravagant" gifts he distributed to others, including farewell tokens, holiday parties and souvenir books.
The report said he gave engraved pewter letter openers to Africa Command staff at a farewell event. Half of the 100 openers were inscribed with: "Presented by Gen. William E. Ward" on one side and "Improve the Foxhole-Make Your Teammates Better" on the other. The other 50 were inscribed with the Africa Command crest.
He also spent about $34,000 on holiday parties in 2009 and 2010 and spent nearly $6,000 plus airfare to bring a staff member from the U.S. to Stuttgart for nearly a month in order to help plan the party in 2010. And he spent $14,000 to print a book that memorialized his time at Africa Command.
Ward told investigators that he was told the spending was appropriate.
While the exact amount of alleged misspending was not disclosed, the estimated total evokes comparisons with the $823,000 purportedly spent by dozens of employees of the General Services Administration who were accused of lavish spending during an October 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort.
Panetta’s options regarding Ward are limited by complex laws and military guidelines.
Panetta can demote Ward and force him to retire at a lower rank. Because Ward’s alleged offenses occurred while he was a four-star general, he could be forced to retire as a three-star, which officials said could cost him as much as $1 million in retirement pay over time.
In order for Ward to be demoted to two-star rank, investigators would have to conclude that he also had problems before moving to Africa Command, and officials said that does not appear to be the case.
In making his decision, Panetta has to certify to Congress that Ward served satisfactorily at the rank at which he is retired.
Ward stepped down early last year after serving at the Europe-based Africa Command, and he intended to retire. He did all the paperwork and was hosted at a retirement ceremony in April 2011 at Fort Myer, Va., but the Army halted his plans to leave because of the investigation.
Since then, he has been working in Northern Virginia, serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army.
Inspector general’s report: http://www.dodig.mil/fo/Foia/PDFs/WardROI—Redacted.pdf
Lolita C. Baldor can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lbaldor
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