A Marine one-star who investigated ethical violations while serving as the Corps' inspector general had his aide pick up laundry, deliver meals and run other personal errands during a high-profile assignment in Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe, currently the deputy commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force in California, "showed a habitual pattern of requesting or permitting his aide to use official time to perform tasks and errands ... other than those required in the performance of the aide's official duties," the Defense Department Inspector General’s office found.
Uribe also "solicited and accepted gifts from employees who received less pay than himself," including coffee and chocolates from a lieutenant colonel and paid haircuts and cash loans from his aide, according to a 46-page report on an investigation into the general's behavior released Thursday.
Military.com submitted a request for comment from Uribe to his current command along with questions about the report, including whether the general officer had been reprimanded. The inquiry was referred to the Defense Department, which did not immediately respond.
Uribe, a KC-130 pilot who served as inspector general of the Marine Corps from September 2015 to May 2016, was deputy commanding general for Operations-Baghdad and director of the Combined Joint Operations Center, Baghdad, at the time of his investigation. The Defense Department received a complaint on June 15, 2017, that Uribe treated his aide-de-camp, an unnamed female officer, like a servant.
Uribe was found to have violated the Joint Ethics Regulation when he requested or permitted that aide to use official time to pick up his laundry; remove and turn in his bedsheets for cleaning; provide meals and snacks; reserve gym equipment; send unofficial correspondence; and arrange for the delivery of his prescription toothpaste to Iraq, among other examples.
On one occasion, the aide said Uribe told her he didn't have time to change his sheets, which she described as "disgusting" since he had sweated through them while ill. When she told Uribe the sheets were damp with sweat, he confirmed and said nothing more.
"At the end of the day," she told investigators, "I'm going to do what I'm asked to do."
The Joint Ethics Regulation states that employees should not be encouraged, directed, coerced or requested to perform activities "other than those required in the performance of official duties or authorized in accordance with law or regulation."
Uribe's year-long deployment to Iraq immediately followed his tenure as the Marine Corps' inspector general, a job described on its official home page as promoting institutional integrity, discipline and credibility through impartial inspections, investigations and teaching.
"In [the IG] position, he had the responsibility to investigate ethical violations involving misuse of subordinates, and to set a personal example of compliance with applicable standards," the investigator wrote.
Uribe's aide told investigators that she spoke with the general about picking up duties that were outside her responsibilities.
"I'm doing a lot more stuff like your personal type of items," she told investigators. "Like, that's not my job as an aide." Uribe reportedly responded with, "Understood."
Another one of the 23 witnesses interviewed by the investigators, according to the report, said he thought Uribe "would have known better" than to permit his aide to use official time to perform tasks with no connection to official duties.
But Uribe hit back, calling it unfair to include comments about his previous billet. His time as inspector general was "irrelevant to the facts and circumstances being investigated," he wrote in the report.
"Furthermore, the inference that 'I should have known better' because I was the IG fails because I was the IG for less than a year, I purposely recused myself from numerous senior leader investigations and delegated them to my deputy, I concentrated on the inspection program and the oversight program, and a substantial amount of my time was spent preparing for the deployment to Iraq," Uribe wrote.
'I Lost Focus'
The investigators recommended that Uribe's supervisor "take appropriate action," according to the report, and that the one-star repay the lieutenant colonel who spent about $50 to ship him $100 worth of coffee and chocolate.
It was also recommended that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness develop a formal policy on the proper use of officer aides. The Defense Department, Navy and Marine Corps have formal guidelines on the use of enlisted aides, but there are no official policies about officer aides.
Personnel and Readiness takes recommendations from the Defense Department’s inspector general very seriously, Jessica Maxwell, a DoD spokeswoman said.
"P&R will closely and carefully review any report and recommendations the DoD IG provides, and will take action as appropriate," she said.
Uribe's records show two instances in which the general likely received training about how to treat subordinates: the Inspector General of the Marine Corps Training Symposium and Brigadier General Select Officer Course.
The training symposium included instruction on what subordinates should be doing on official time and a section on accepting gifts. The course for new one-stars included a section on the use of aides-de-camp, and what is prohibited, including drafting personal correspondence and running personal errands.
Uribe wrote in the report that the training he received and the operational environment in Iraq "need to be considered more realistically." He acknowledged making "many mistakes" when it came to his aide, but added that it was a result of a lack of training.
"This deployment was very challenging and the operational tempo demanded that I be in certain places, usually the [combined-joint operations center] for long periods of time," he added. "I lost focus and allowed my aide to do things that were personal in nature and more of a convenience."
Uribe replaced Maj. Gen. William Mullen in Iraq. Mullen never requested or allowed his aide to use official time to perform unofficial duties for him, the investigators wrote. Uribe's aide would sometimes carry the general's personal items, something Mullen said he did not ask of his aide.
Mullen said he follows the example set by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
"He carries his own bags," Mullen said, according to the report. "He makes a point of it."
Uribe wrote that he found some of the substantiated allegations "not justified," but added he should not have accepted small convenience loans from his aide.
"Where I would never think to engage in these activities in garrison, in the fog of the combat zone, it seemed acceptable somehow," he wrote. "I have learned a great deal from this process and will be much more attentive to these issues in the future.
"At the end of the day as a senior leader, the only thing I am entitled to is to be held accountable for my actions," Uribe added.
-- Gina Harkins can be reached at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.