Scandal-ridden California National Guard commander resigns

The head of the California National Guard, who has presided over a series of scandals over the past three and a half years, will retire at the end of the month, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office confirmed Monday.

The departure of Major General David Baldwin follows a Times investigation which last month detailed the latest string of embarrassing episodes for the Guard, including allegations within the officer ranks of abuse of authority, homophobia, anti-Semitism and racism.

Baldwin, who has led the Guard since 2011 as adjutant general and reports to Newsom, did not respond to an interview request. After Newsom’s office acknowledged to The Times that Baldwin was stepping down, the governor issued a statement late Monday thanking the general “for his steadfast leadership and nearly four decades of dedicated service to our state and our nation.”

The statement also credited Baldwin for “advancing much-needed reforms to change the culture of the organization and better serve Californians,” and said he was instrumental in the Guard’s efforts to train the forces. Ukrainian military and provide the country with protective equipment and medical supplies. .

Newsom’s office said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, who is part of Baldwin’s leadership team, will succeed him as deputy adjutant general and “the governor will consider appointing an adjutant general.” Beevers did not respond to a request for comment.

The 20,000-member guard, a branch of the California military department, which the adjutant general also heads, performs a dual mission that includes responding to emergencies in the state, such as earthquakes, wildfires and civil unrest; and assistance to US armed forces in military operations overseas.

Upheaval has marked Baldwin’s tenure since early 2019, when a Times report revealed internal complaints of retaliation against whistleblowers and allegations of covering up misconduct from the organization’s leadership. The complaints related to the Fresno Air Force Base of the Guard and included an incident in which someone urinated in the boots of a female member of the Guard. Baldwin later removed the commander of the air side of the Guard, Major General Clay Garrison. The commander of the 144th Fighter Wing at the Fresno base was also removed from his post.

In 2020, in response to another Times report, Newsom’s office denounced the Guard’s decision to send a military spy plane to the El Dorado Hills suburb, where Baldwin lived, to help civil authorities monitor protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Baldwin said the fact that he resided in El Dorado Hills, where the protests were small and peaceful, had no bearing on the deployment of the RC-26B reconnaissance aircraft.

Last year, Baldwin fired Garrison’s successor, Maj. Gen. Gregory Jones, and suspended Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Magram with salary as director of the air staff and reassigned him to human resources and humanitarian duties. These actions followed a Times report that members of the Guard feared their superiors had prepared an F-15C fighter jet in 2020 for a possible mission in which the aircraft would fly low over civilian protesters. to frighten them and scatter them. Baldwin denied that the jet had been prepared for such a deployment, and he said the actions against Jones and Magram had nothing to do with the report.

Magram, who has been a member of Baldwin’s inner circle, is among the officers caught up in the latest round of unrest.

According to interviews and a confidential report obtained by The Times, the US Air Force inspector general investigated Magram following complaints that he broke government rules by having subordinates transport his mother on a shopping trip, run other personal errands for him, and do some of his work. cybersecurity training. The investigation resulted in a warning letter for Magram, the Guard told the newspaper.

After further questioning from The Times, however, the Guard said a second investigation of Magram by a state inspector general had substantiated similar allegations against him, and he is awaiting another round of disciplinary action.

The Times also reported that an internal investigation supported claims that Brig. General David Hawkins made anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, including that Jews are unrepentant sinners and that same-sex marriage is a reason terrorists attack the United States. Hawkins received a letter of reprimand as a result, the Guard said. Responding to a subsequent question from The Times, the Guard confirmed last month that Hawkins had resigned.

Hawkins told The Times that “these allegations are largely untrue”, and he specifically denied making the statement about the terrorist attacks. He said he believed the allegations were made by someone who overheard and misinterpreted a conversation he had with a chaplain.

Meanwhile, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright, a Guards finance officer who was running for general, was arrested in March on suspicion of exposing himself to three women at a restaurant in Arlington County, Virginia. . Police booked Cartwright on a misdemeanor charge, but the case was dismissed Monday for lack of evidence, according to his attorney, Karin Porter.

“He was falsely accused,” Porter said.

An attempt to reach prosecutors late Monday failed.

Interviews and Guard records reviewed by The Times show that other alleged acts of misconduct that occurred on Baldwin’s watch include:

– A captain allegedly called a Latino sergeant a ‘lazy Mexican’ and harassed an African-American soldier for being a ‘Black Lives Matter guy’. Another captain was accused of asking a Jewish soldier if the cigar ashes were his “relatives”. The two captains allegedly falsified the physical fitness certificates of members of the Guard.

— A Guard air side wing commander is facing complaints that she used a military credit card to buy cleaning supplies for her dog and asked underlings to walk the animal at the work.

– The vice wing commander of the same air station was punished because of an arrest for drunk driving.

All of these issues have been the subject of internal investigations, a Guard spokesman said. The status of the investigations could not be determined on Monday.

Current and former members of the Guard have blamed Baldwin for what they say is a widespread perception in the organization that high-ranking officers who engage in abusive and unethical behavior are protected from a important discipline.

“It’s a good thing Baldwin is gone,” said Dan Woodside, a former Guard major who has publicly criticized the organization’s brass. “He’s been there too long, and now there’s not enough top cover for these other commanders.”

Baldwin denied protecting the discipline commanders. In an earlier statement to The Times, he said, “The bottom line is that we have an effective system in place that deals with allegations of inappropriate behavior.”

Los Angeles Times

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