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IG found former academy commandant misused travel, had poor command climate; she will seek redress for firing

An inspector general report released Thursday found Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, former commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, failed to maintain a healthy command climate, and broke multiple travel regulations.

But Goodwin’s attorney on Thursday said the Air Force’s inspector general failed to properly investigate an allegation of toxic leadership, and will seek redress for her removal. He also said she had suffered “bigotry, bias and discrimination" as a married gay officer at the academy.

The inspector general report substantiated allegations of improper travel practices, including conducting personal business while on official government travel, and having a cadet charge some of her travel expenses to his card while traveling to the red carpet premiere of “Captain Marvel” in Hollywood.

It also found she failed to maintain a healthy command climate by making false or untruthful statements, unnecessarily blaming her staff for her own shortfalls, and that she made decisions and conducted herself in a way that led others to view her as a “self-serving” leader.

Goodwin was relieved from her duties as head of military training at the school in April, amid an investigation, a month before she was to be transferred to her new job at the Pentagon.

Her attorney, Larry Youngner of the Washington, D.C., law firm Tully Rinckey, said in a release that an inspector general investigation confirmed “several allegations of noncompliant travel and leave related matters.” Youngner said Goodwin had already addressed those issues.

“That said, the IG failed to properly investigate the command climate or ‘toxic leadership’ allegation raised against my client,” Youngner said.

Youngner said Goodwin will exercise her rights under Article 138 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to seek redress for the decision by academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria to remove her for toxic leadership, just 30 days before her scheduled change of command.

Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, shown here as a colonel, previously led the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana -- the wing's first female commander -- before becoming commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy. (Air Force)
Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, shown here as a colonel, previously led the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana -- the wing's first female commander -- before becoming commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy. (Air Force)

“This decision was based on hearsay and was not appropriately investigated by him or the IG,” Youngner said. “We assess his actions were arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of his discretion as superintendent.”

Youngner also said Silveria’s actions toward Goodwin “were clearly unfair or unjust as they related to the information my client previously brought to Lt. Gen. Silveria about a senior officer under her command, along with the bigotry, bias and discrimination she faced as a gay married officer leading the Cadet Wing of the U.S. Air Force Academy.”

The inspector general report, provided by the Air Force at Air Force Times’ request, substantiated allegations of an unhealthy command climate.

The report said that retired Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, who recently stepped down as the academy’s dean of faculty, told investigators that Goodwin “seemed quick to affix blame to others … from the get-go” and that he would frequently hear from others “how screwed up the [Cadet Wing] office is [and] how people are incapable of doing what they need to do.”

Other witnesses echoed those complaints, the report said. One witness, whose name was redacted, said as soon as she came in, the Cadet Wing “almost immediately became the most bizarrely toxic and mistrustful organization I’ve ever been a part of.”

Armacost also told investigators there were some cases in which he didn’t think she was being truthful, the report said.

It also found Goodwin traveled on four trips between July 2017 and November 2018 “during which she conducted personal business, rather than official business, either in whole or substantial part.” She claimed and was reimbursed nearly $2,800 in personal travel expenses for those trips, according to the IG report.

Goodwin took a four-day trip to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, which the IG said was arranged entirely to allow her to attend a change of command and retirement ceremony for a person, and an organization, that was not affiliated with her own unit or command. Goodwin also ordered her staff to add meetings and briefings with Air Force personnel on that trip, who were not in her chain of command or supporting her mission, as well as a Kansas City parents group meeting, to make the trip look official, the report stated.

Two other trips were legitimate government trips, but Goodwin extended those trips for her personal business. She spent three extra days in the Washington, D.C., area on one trip so she could hold her own promotion ceremony in the Pentagon, and an extra day on another trip to Washington to attend a retirement ceremony for a superior officer who was not in her command.

Finally, after completing a legitimate trip to the National Capital Region, Goodwin added a stop-over at Whiteman to officiate a chief master sergeant’s retirement ceremony.

The report also cited one instance in which the investigating officer felt that Goodwin was not providing truthful testimony on her travel practices.

In March, Goodwin wrongfully asked a cadet to charge some of her official expenses on the cadet’s government credit card during the trip for the “Captain Marvel” premiere, according to the IG.

Goodwin found out three weeks before the trip that her card was inactivated before the trip, the report said. While checking in to their hotel, she asked cadets if one would charge her hotel expenses on their card, which ended up totaling nearly $832. She reimbursed the cadet for that charge 28 days later, but the investigating officer found she “took a passive approach towards repaying" the cadet.

This was a violation of government travel card regulations, ethics regulations, and rules on professional and unprofessional relationships, the IG said — exacerbated by the fact that the person she took an improper loan from was a cadet under her command.

The report also substantiated an allegation that Goodwin did not take leave for time spent on personal business while on official travel, in violation of Air Force regulations. The IG found she traveled on five trips, during which she conducted 11 days of personal business.

It found she improperly bought airfare without using the government’s assigned travel management company, and prepaid fuel for her rental car, and misused a government vehicle.

It found Goodwin’s decisions on six trips in 2017 and 2018 led to more than $5,300 in unnecessary travel expenses. Some of those trips were those that investigators deemed to be for personal reasons, and the cost of those travel days was included in that total.

Youngner said the travel and leave discrepancies were not willful or intentional, and that concerns about them were not brought to Goodwin’s attention until her IG interview in March. The instances that were under investigation were not fully disclosed to her until the final IG report was released to her on Oct. 17, Youngner said.

He said Goodwin took leave for any days the IG found were taken in addition to official business, and reimbursed the Air Force for any travel expenses the IG found were questionable.

“My client is humbled by what transpired,” Youngner said. “She cooperated fully and provided statements under oath.

“My client is proud of her 26 years of Air Force service,” Youngner said. “She is also proud of her service as the U.S. Air Force Academy’s commandant of cadets and the significant accomplishments the Cadet Wing made while she served in this capacity from 2017 to 2019. She is equally proud of her wife and family for their commitment to serve alongside her in a very public position that placed demands and undesired attention on their lives.”

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