THE PENTAGON - Now-retired Rear Adm. Kenneth Norton received a letter of censure from Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer Wednesday following a review of his interactions with Glenn Defense Marine Asia – the so-called “Fat Leonard” investigation.
Norton, while serving as commanding officer of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) between 2008 and 2010 in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, was found to have repeatedly and improperly received gifts from defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA). His personal behavior was “found to have constituted conduct unbecoming an officer,” according to a statement released today by Spencer.
The review of Norton’s actions concluded he “demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment and leadership. More specifically, the review concluded that he intentionally disregarded the ethical standards long established for the naval service and brought ill-repute and disgrace upon the U.S. Navy,” according to Spencer’s statement.
The Fat Leonard investigation is a wide-ranging Department of Justice look into illegal practices between naval officers and GDMA. The DoJ is scrutinizing a ten-year period when the Navy contracted GDMA to provide services in the Pacific such as tugs and pilots into ports; docking; and goods such as fuel and food. GDMA owner Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis is currently in federal custody and admitted to instances of bribery and corruption to secure contracts to provide services to Navy ships.
Norton retired from the Navy in 2014, but his censure is the first related to the Fat Leonard investigation since 2015, when three other admirals operating in the region received “Secretarial Letters of Censure.” Vice Adm. Michael Miller, former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy; Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, commander of Naval Forces Japan; and Rear Adm. David Pimpo, commander of Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), all received their letters due to their interactions with GDMA between 2006 and 2008, according to the Navy.
The following is the complete Nov. 29, 2017 statement from the U.S. Navy on the censure.
Secretary of the Navy Censures Retired Senior Officer
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure to a now-retired senior officer, retired Rear Adm. Kenneth Norton, following a thorough review into his interactions with Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) in the 2008-2010 timeframe.
While serving as the commanding officer, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) from 2008-2010 in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, Norton was found to have repeatedly and improperly accepted gifts from GDMA, a defense contractor and prohibited source. Further, Norton’s personal behavior was found to have constituted conduct unbecoming an officer. Norton retired from the Navy in 2014.
The review concluded that Norton’s conduct was contrary to the Standards of Ethical Conduct, U.S. Navy Regulations, the Joint Ethics Regulation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment and leadership. More specifically, the review concluded that he intentionally disregarded the ethical standards long established for the naval service and brought ill-repute and disgrace upon the U.S. Navy.
“The Navy has a long tradition of holding leaders accountable and commanding officers are placed in unique positions of trust and responsibility. It is incumbent that they be held to the highest standards of both personal and professional behavior. After reviewing the findings and recommendation of the Consolidated Disposition Authority for GDMA matters, I decided that Rear Adm. (ret.) Norton’s conduct reflected improper personal behavior and set a wholly unethical tone of leadership. Censure was both necessary and appropriate,” said Spencer.
GDMA is the subject of an ongoing federal fraud and bribery investigation which was initiated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). In March 2014, the secretary of the Navy directed the appointment of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) to act as an independent authority to review GDMA matters forwarded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the Navy after the DOJ has declined to press criminal changes in the federal judicial system. The purpose of the CDA is to review the GDMA-related conduct of Navy members and determine what, if any, disciplinary or administrative actions are warranted and available.
The GDMA investigation continues to be led by DOJ and supported by NCIS and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California in San Diego and the Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., are leading the prosecution.