A former top Pentagon official sexually harassed two female colleagues over seven years — subjecting them to unwanted attention, including photographing the buttocks of one woman and giving the other massages during “mentoring” sessions, according to a report released on Wednesday.
John James, who was executive director of the Missile Defense Agency, retired in February amid an investigation into his conduct, Military.com reported.
The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General substantiated complaints that James began harassing the women in 2012, a year after he arrived at the agency, it wrote in a report first obtained by USA Today.
James, who had a 37-year career at the DOD, got counseling for his sick behavior in 2017 — but the harassment continued into 2019, the inspector general found.
For seven years, James “repeatedly sought out and made deliberate, unwelcomed physical contact” with the first woman, according to the report.
“Mr. James told us that his contacts with (the woman) were part of a mentoring relationship,” the report said. “However, we found no evidence to support his assertion.”
At an agency event in 2014, James snapped a pic of the woman’s behind on her personal device as she walked to a food tent. She deleted it immediately after seeing it and reported it to her supervisor, though James denied taking the picture.
He also asked for her cellphone number, would shake her hand for uncomfortably long periods — which one witness described as “odd and creepy” — and in 2018, told her he had been “chasing her for seven years.”
The second woman was “an employee who Mr. James ‘mentored,’ by massaging her neck behind a closed door in his office on two occasions while making an inappropriate comment, ‘I love this,’ ” according to the report.
The woman broke up the relationship but didn’t report the gross conduct because she feared retaliation, the IG said. She eventually quit, in part over James’ actions.
James denied he had harassed anyone, blaming the complaints on a disgruntled employee passed over for promotion.
“There’s a modicum of truth in the interactions, but no intent for sexual harassment, or favors, or anything of that nature,” he told investigators.
The 25-page report, with testimony from 11 witnesses, was completed on July 13 and first obtained by USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act.
Since James is retired, the report was added to his personnel file, the IG concluded.
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