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Records show former Fort Carson commander made inappropriate comments, sexual innuendos

By: Dave Philipps
February 1, 2014 Updated: February 3, 2014 at 9:59 am
photo - Col. John McGrath
Col. John McGrath 

The former commander of Fort Carson's hospital, Col. John McGrath, was removed from command because he regularly made brusque, "cringe-inducing" comments to his subordinates, according to newly released Army documents.

A 400-page investigation of McGrath, obtained by The Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act, shows there were no overt accusations of sexual misconduct or illegal reprisal by the commander of Evans Army Hospital. Instead, the report reads a bit like an episode of "The Office," with the oblivious boss constantly making inappropriate comments.

Upon meeting an attractive nurse, McGrath allegedly said, "I see how you got your rank," according to the report.

He asked another employee if he met his wife at a strip club.

During another encounter with a female employee, he asked where her husband was.

"He's deployed," she said, according to the report.

"So does that mean you're out partying?" McGrath allegedly said.

When a female officer arrived at the hospital daily morning meeting with newly dyed blond hair, McGrath allegedly announced to the 20 people in the room, "Look who joined us, Voldemort."

McGrath was suspended in August after the investigation began. The investigation concluded in October that McGrath should not be reinstated as commander because "His continual barrage of inappropriate comments and sexual innuendos degrade the command climate and morale."

An Evans Army Hospital spokesman said McGrath no longer works at Evans and is instead "serving in an administrative position with another organization on Fort Carson." The spokesman did not elaborate.

McGrath, a doctor with 29 years in the Army, took command of the hospital in January 2012. In a written response to the investigation, he either denied or said he could not remember making the inappropriate actions.

"I do not recall making that comment," he said of the Voldemort quip. "And cannot imagine a tie between a middle-age bald, noseless wizard and a female officer."

McGrath could not be reached for comment.

Interviews with 46 members of hospital staff and their spouses generally showed a man who made brusque or sarcastic remarks that many interviewees said may have been attempts at humor but instead insulted or intimidated subordinates.

According to the report, he praised a black employee's husband's singing in a manner the report described as "thug talk." He called a staff member's heels "hooker shoes." He quipped that a staff member leaving for another job was a "traitor." He joked about seeing the commander of the Warrior Transition Unit, Lt. Col. Mechelle Tuttle, in her bathing suit.

"I think he thinks what he is saying is funny," one employee told investigators. All names were redacted in the report.

"It's like he doesn't seem to have a censor button," another said.

"I just can't fathom the mindset," Tuttle told investigators on his comment about her wearing a bathing suit. "I think he has a complete lack of regard for other people's thoughts and a narcissistic attitude. It's probably a shock to him that it would bother anyone."

Many interviewees said McGrath was warned repeatedly that he should not make such comments, but he continued.

Some women also alleged that McGrath touched them on the waist or shoulder inappropriately.

In addition, McGrath's lack of tact caused frustration at the hospital. Many described it as a hostile workplace. They said McGrath was overly focused on regulations and cost-cutting. At one point, McGrath refused to show up to a cake-cutting ceremony, saying in an email, "Not sure how staff gathering around cake accomplishes anything."

Many people said McGrath's leadership style, combined with the economic austerity and furloughs of sequestration, crippled morale.

One person interviewed described the command climate as "Horrible, just horrible, you could scoop it off the floor."

Col. Dennis LeMaster took command of the hospital last month.

At the change-of-command ceremony, Brig. Gen. John Cho, head of Western Regional Medical Command, said of LeMaster, "I am confident that Dennis will lead with skill, dignity and respect."

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