A recent report that a one-star general and former commander of the Michigan Air National Guard scammed nearly $200,000 represents a stain on the reputation of military officers in positions of power.
Brigadier General Richard G. Elliot, Michigan’s former Air adjutant general, is reported by the inspector general (IG) to have used his public office for private gain. Once a federal military technician, Elliot received a federal paycheck. However, in December 2005 he was appointed to serve as the Air adjutant general and commander of the Michigan Air National Guard, making him a full-time employee of the state.
In an effort to quality for retirement benefits, Elliot failed to terminate his federal position as required by law and instead continued to approve his own time and attendance records. As a result, he received more than $194,000, the IG found. The IG further found nearly $20,000 of unwarranted temporary duty travel money.
Perhaps more unfortunate, however, is that we are in 2014: almost ten years from when these abuses of power transpired. Not only did Brig. Gen. Elliot break the law and scam taxpayers, but the investigation to uncover it took nearly five years. Adding more fuel to the flame, Elliot’s boss, Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, then Michigan’s adjutant general, knew that Elliot was trying to reach his retirement date and helped Elliot remain on the books as a military technician.
This behavior is symptomatic of the “old boys club” present in the military, and the slow walking of the investigation allowed those implicated to retire without facing charges for what they had done. It should be noted, though, that this lapse of integrity by a few is not representative of the good men and women who serve our country, and our state.
Still, the case does represent a strand of military officers who have a, “boys will be boys” mentality. One way to rout out this thinking is to hasten investigations of such abuses of power and take the possibility of fraud more seriously. There are many who serve as appointed officials with great integrity, and many others who deserve high-level appointments. Cases like this provide an example of how the current system is not working.
Those officials who pull their weight and serve with integrity deserve better. More importantly, the people these officials serve deserve better – not only from those who abuse their power, but those who investigate the abuses.
To read more on the IG’s report and finding, read the Free Press article here: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/201401131511/NEWS06/301130142
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