THE AWFUL ORDEAL
OF CPO SWEENEY
We get to see evidence of military corruption and abuse so often here, it’s easy to get “jaded” when IG investigation reports routinely cross our desk.
But the files on Navy Capt. Ruth Cooper, “relieved of command” at Naval Station Newport, R.I. in 2003, are especially egregious. Every allegation but one of the nine charges against the terrible-tempered ex-CO was found to be “substantiated.”
Cooper’s vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation against highly-respected Navy paralegal, Chief Petty Officer Joe Sweeney, makes us wonder why Cooper is still in the Navy?
After all, she was “bounced” from her Newport assignment 18 months ago, yet is still on active duty at the Pentagon, drawing full pay and benefits after being relieved by Rear Admiral Joseph Walsh when he “lost confidence in (her) ability and judgement to command.”
NAVY OFFICERS AND SENIOR CHIEFS “SOUND OFF”
MilitaryCorruption.com has been contacted by Navy officers and senior chiefs, incredulous that such a person as Cooper can stay in uniform so long after being fired.
“It’s a slap in-the-face to the rest of us,” said one full commander, who knows the female 0-6. “Why the double-standard?” asks a master-chief. “Is this another case of gender discrimination, with political correctness favoring women over men?”
Pentagon sources tell us Cooper “has a desk job in the CNO’s office,” but nobody seems to know exactly what the 26-year Navy officer does to “earn” her hefty paycheck.
Perhaps Admiral Vern Clark, outgoing chief of naval operations, could illuminate us in time for his successor to carefully study the Cooper case and see if he wants to keep the “relieved of command” captain on the active duty rolls.
A LITANY OF ABUSES
A look at the Navy IG report lists a whole litany of abuses.
Sparked by a whistleblower’s “hotline complaint,” the first allegation reads that Cooper “improperly spent taxpayer dollars by directing the replacement of a newly-constructed porch on her assigned quarters. In direct violation of regulations, the captain’s pique at the “esthetic qualities,” or lack of same, of the porch cost taxpayers $7,500.
But that was nothing compared to “allegation two,” which detailed how Cooper “improperly spent taxpayer dollars” by having government employees perform tasks during overtime hours to such an extent that “overtime charges” at NAVSTA Newport were not identified to the chain-of-command until the IG Inspector Analysis Office checked the “OT run-ups” in May 2003.
Incredibly, in terms of dollar amounts, the total overtime paid to facility employees from October 2002 through April 2003 was $632,196 for the Newport base, compared to only $182,558 for NAVSUBASE at New London, Conn., and just $19,933 to the well-run and managed Brunswick, Maine NAS during the same time period.
Another allegation showed “spendthrift” Cooper wasted $25,000 of government funds to “install an electrical line” for the purpose of “illuminating a Christmas tree.”
Cooper didn’t stop there. Running through money “like a drunken sailor,” she continued her orgy of wasteful spending. It was substantiated in the IG investigative report that the abrasive Navy captain “improperly spent taxpayer dollars through the expenditure of $146,331 in unnecessarily expensive construction to the command headquarters building 690.” This, after the building had just received a $1.4 million renovation less than three years before!
$8000 BRASS PLAQUES – ETCHED GLASS PANELS AT $700
“Refurbishing the command headquarters interior in order to spend ‘end of the year’ money was inappropriate and a flagrant misuse of taxpayer dollars,” read the IG report. “Examples of such extravagance included such items as ornate brass plaques costing $8,000, etched glass panels costing $700, and patio-pavers costing $12,287.”
The “spend-crazy captain” even ran up a more than $10,000 tab for framed prints on the walls. Artwork for government offices is easily available from the Naval War College or Navy Photographic Service at an average cost of less than $50 per framed print.
Besides her many wasteful and unnecessary expenditures, Cooper was nailed for fostering a command climate that “discouraged the free flow of information and impeded the efficiency of the command.”
The IG investigators wrote that Cooper “abused, both verbally and by her actions, supervisory and maintenance personnel in the Public Works Dept. through her demeanor and demands.”
Witnesses made sworn statements to the IG charging Cooper with perpetuating “a command atmosphere of FEAR and INTIMIDATION.” One staff member said: “I felt it was in my best interest not to confront her with my concerns, due to fear of repercussions.” Similar statements were expressed during personnel interviews with MWR, Housing, Public Works, Family Service Center, and Command Administration and other departments at NAVSTA Newport.
If that wasn’t enough of a “laundry list” of offenses, and this will probably give Cooper a big “hissy fit,” which will get her “back up” when she sees our story, [we have readers in the CNO’s office too] the “relieved of command” captain was found to have illegally run a “cat-breeding” business in her government quarters and had so many feline “pets” that it far exceeded the number allowed.
Investigators found the captain guilty of “breeding cats” as a “home enterprise.” In fact, they found Cooper listed on a “Fanciers Breeder Referral List” web site for cat seekers. All while she was being paid full-time as a captain in the U.S. Navy. She even allegedly had a subordinate (on official orders) transport a cat to Florida, which earned money for her unauthorized “sideline.”
THE CAMPAIGN OF HATE AGAINST CHIEF SWEENEY
We’ve saved the worst for last – the cruel treatment of a fine chief petty officer, the well-liked and highly-respected Navy paralegal, Joe Sweeney.
This CPO, a Naval Reserve chief who works full-time at the Newport base as a civilian, bore the brunt of Cooper’s abusive wrath.
“She made my life a living hell,” he told MilitaryCorruption.com. “I have never seen an officer conduct themselves as shamefully as Captain Ruth Cooper did. I still love the Navy, but I wish the leadership would do more to ‘weed out’ people like her who are unfit to command and who treat subordinates like they were sub-humans.”
Sweeney’s ordeal included being totally ostracized at work, to the point where Cooper actually ordered personnel not to even speak to the affable chief petty officer.
Former LT Robert Coulter, a Naval Academy graduate, was one of those people. In an affidavit submitted to Sweeney’s attorney – Francis J. Flanagan – and shown to our reporter, Coulter told of an episode with the “out-of-control” Cooper where “the veins stood out on her neck” as she screamed at him after discovering he had “spoken” to Sweeney.
With all the instability of a “Captain Queeg” rolling his marbles and obsessing over strawberries, Cooper demanded to know what the lieutenant and chief petty officer had spoken about.
“I explained to her that I had been discussing issues regarding the city of Newport and myself that were of a personal nature,” the lieutenant said. “Then, in a loud and frantic voice, she warned me, ‘You are not to talk to Joe Sweeney!’”
Next, Coulter related a line straight out of Humphrey Bogart’s mouth in the motion picture, The Caine Mutiny. “I will NOT have any skullduggery in MY command!” Cooper reportedly shrieked.
AN OVERT PATTERN OF HARASSMENT
Other affidavits seen by MilitaryCorruption.com show a pattern of harassment that would have cost any male commanding officer his career.
“I witnessed LT Thomas Rutledge make statements that he would be promoted to lieutenant commander if he was successful in ending Joseph Sweeney’s employment at Naval Station Newport,” said government worker Amy Kathleen Pitts, in a sworn statement dated September 13, 2002.
“(The lieutenant) said Captain Cooper HATED Joseph Sweeney, and that “she had improved his fitness report after LT Rutledge had taken action against Mr. Sweeney,” Pitts said.
Why did Cooper “hate” the chief so much?
“She found out I was the whistleblower that alerted the Navy IG to her abuses,” Sweeney said.
In an incredible act of avarice, Cooper even had Sweeney’s office “demolished” while he was away for a couple days. Upon his return, he found “the walls knocked down” and his papers “scattered across the floor.”
“She almost drove me crazy. I even thought about suicide,” said the career Navy man. “Cooper reached the absolute low point of her harassment campaign when she spread a rumor that I was a homosexual.” At that remark, Sweeney’s girlfriend burst into tears, and our MCC correspondent in Rhode Island had to stop asking questions for a moment while the woman regained her composure. “You see?” he said. “That evil woman not only hurt me, but my loved ones as well!”
is a two-way street. The editors of this web site have rarely seen such
an outpouring of disgust against a senior officer. Perhaps the only
other “brass hat” we’ve covered in recent weeks loathed
more than Cooper, is disgraced “playboy” and former chief
legal officer of the U.S. Air Force, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus.
Her actions toward Sweeney are inexcusable. Why hasn’t this deserving E-7 been promoted to senior chief? And why is Cooper still holding the rank of captain? Being “relieved of command” would seem to indicate the officer did not serve satisfactorily in the grade she held then, and holds now.
It is yet another “waste of taxpayers money” that such a person is still on active duty, hauling down “big bucks” and enjoying all the “bennies” of being a senior officer assigned to the Pentagon. What tremendous service does Cooper perform to the defense of our nation that would warrant more pay than most Americans make in a year? And what civilian CEO or boss who had a record like hers could avoid dismissal, let alone be retained at a six-figure salary?
We are not at all surprised that CNO Vern Clark “wimped out” and enabled this obvious double-standard to occur. We hope the next chief of naval operations will give CPO Sweeney a well-deserved promotion to E-8 and ask Cooper to promptly put in her retirement papers and “hit the bricks.”
Don’t worry, gang. She won’t go hungry on that fat Navy pension, and anyway, she has great experience at “breeding cats,” accrued while assigned to function as a competent commanding officer at Newport NAVSTA.
the interest of fairness, we would like to give Cooper an opportunity
to refute these documented charges made against her. Perhaps she has
an “explanation” for all this. At any rate, MilitaryCorruption.com
hereby offers the female captain equal time on our pages to tell her
side of the story.