Despite findings from sexual harassment investigation, colonel r - WSMV Channel 4

Despite findings from sexual harassment investigation, colonel re-hired with National Guard

Posted: Updated: Nov 07, 2016 07:27 PM
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Despite a U.S. Army Inspector General investigation that found a colonel with the Tennessee National Guard failed to uphold military values for how he treated a young female officer and cost him a promotion to general, that official was later re-hired as a top administrator with the Tennessee National Guard, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.

It is the latest discovery in the I-Team’s “Dishonorable Conduct” investigation into the Tennessee National Guard.

The I-Team obtained the investigative filings through the Freedom of Information Act and tracked down the female officer at the center of the sexual harassment claim.

For the first time, that female officer is speaking out about what happened, but asked us not to identify her for fear of how it could impact her military career.

"It weighs on me pretty heavily. It's a huge, bigger than myself problem,” the officer said.

The officer detailed how she came to the National Guard Association of the United States conference in Nashville in September 2009, and that she was encouraged to go speak with the chief of staff for the Tennessee National Guard in a hospitality room, Col. William Wenzler.

"Because it would be a good opportunity for professional development,” she said.

The officer said the conversation between the two started off fine, but took an unexpected turn.

"(Wenzler was) telling me that I was very beautiful. Mentioning that his wife was in Afghanistan," the officer said. “He asked me to escort him back to the room."

The inspector general’s report shows that when she refused, she was approached by Wenzler the next night.

"He made a very direct proposition. He said, ‘You know, I'd really like to [expletive] you. This is my room number,’" she said. "I couldn't even respond, I was so shocked."

“And there were witnesses? Other people saw this?” asked chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.

“There were," she said.

Thought their names and ranks are blocked out in the report, military investigators show another conference attendee testified that he and another attendee observed the conversation between Wenzler and the female officer, and said, “Man, if I am not mistaken, because I heard the Colonel ask this young lady if she wanted to go upstairs and [expletive].”

Click here to read more from the investigation.

"It was alarming that someone with his stature and with that much power would think he would be in a position of power to do it and get away with it,” the female officer said.

The officer said when she went to two of her superiors in the Tennessee National Guard, along with a sexual assault response coordinator, their advice was the same.

"They advised me if I moved forward with turning this guy in - with filing a complaint - it would have a severely negative impact on my career,” she said.

“But you ultimately did,” Finley said.

“Yes,” she said.

In the inspector general’s report, Wenzler testified that the allegations were not true, but said he would write a statement to apologize for anything that he might have said that offended the officer.

Army investigators ultimately concluded that Wenzler failed to adhere to military values when he made inappropriate comments and references to the officer and wasn’t truthful about what happened.

Click here to read more from the report.

Along with the sexual harassment complaint, the investigators found other troubling findings, and that result was a letter of reprimand by the Vice Chief of Staff with the U.S. Army, a spokesman for the Tennessee National Guard confirmed in an email.

That spokesman, Randy Harris, also confirmed Wenzler’s name was removed from the General Officer U.S. Senate nomination list, and then Wenzler retired from military service.

But at an unknown later date, Wenzler was then re-hired with the Tennessee National Guard as the Director of Administrator Services with the Tennessee National Guard.

"That sounds like his boys covered for him," the female officer said.

Harris wrote in an email, “Wenzler was interviewed and found to be the best applicant. His performance has been, and continues to be outstanding … COL (Ret.) Wenzler categorically denied, and still denies, all the allegations contained in the IG report."

Wenzler also denied the I-Team’s request for an interview, but we still called him and went to his home to try to get his side of the story.

His wife answered the door, took a business card from the I-Team and closed the door.

The I-Team’s investigation into Wenzler continues this week, when we will expose details of how that inspector general’s report found Wenzler also misused government equipment and had an improper relationship with a civilian subordinate.

Despite that, Wenzler was still re-hired with the Tennessee National Guard.

"Obviously the organization is infested with corruption," the female officer said.

Our investigations continue this week on Channel 4 News at 6:00.

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