Investigators: Colonel misused equipment, had inappropriate rela - WSMV News 4

Investigators: Colonel misused equipment, had inappropriate relationship

Posted: Updated: Nov 09, 2016 07:25 PM
Col. (Ret.) William Wenzler (WSMV file photo) Col. (Ret.) William Wenzler (WSMV file photo)

Additional findings by military investigators, obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team, show more improper behavior by a colonel who was denied general status but was then re-hired by the Tennessee National Guard.

The Inspector General’s report showed Col. (Ret.) William Wenzler improperly used government equipment and had an inappropriate relationship with a civilian subordinate.

The I-Team first reported Monday that Wenzler was also found by Army investigators to have made inappropriate comments and references to a female officer who complained that he sexually harassed her.

Though the investigation blocked Wenzler’s appointment to general and he retired afterward, our investigation found Wenzler was still re-hired by the Tennessee National Guard as the director of administrative services.

While no one with the Tennessee National Guard, including Wenzler, would agree to an interview with the I-Team, chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley tracked him down at a military budget hearing this week.

"This female officer says you sexually harassed her and then threatened her career. What do you say to that?” Finley asked.

“I want to thank you for your interest in the military department and I'd like to thank you for supporting the veterans,” Wenzler responded.

The I-Team has tried repeatedly to ask Wenzler about what happened during a 2009 National Guard Association conference.

The female officer, who asked the I-Team not to reveal her identity for fear of how it could impact her military career, told Army investigators that after Wenzler told her she was beautiful and asked her to escort him back to his room, she encountered him the next night.

The female officer said when she told Wenzler that she would walk away if he seriously offended her, he replied, “You might not want to do that. That might be bad for your career.”

After that encounter, she told military investigators that he sexually propositioned her.

"He said, ‘You know, I’d really like to [expletive] you. This is my room number,’” the female officer said. "It was alarming that someone of his stature with that much power would think he would be in a position of power to do it and get away with it.”

"I denied everything then - I’m denying it now. I will not participate in a re-investigation of something that was unfounded to start with,” Wenzler said.

"Are you saying that the military investigators were wrong in their findings?” Finley asked.

"Absolutely," Wenzler said.

That military investigation also references another complainant who said Wenzler directed that one of his female civilian employees receive a government Blackberry, even when some of the officers within the command were not issued one.

Click here to read the report.

Investigators found there were more than 6,000 minutes of communication on that phone, and that most of the calls took place almost exclusively outside of normal duty hours and almost every weekend.

The investigators determined that Wenzler, who was married at the time, improperly used government resources and had an improper relationship with the female employee.

"This military investigation also found that you misused government equipment, and that you had an improper relationship with a civilian subordinate,” Finley said.

"Sir, my record stands for itself, thank you very much," Wenzler said.

"Do you think any of this should have precluded you from being re-hired with the National Guard?" Finley asked.

"I'll refer that question to General Haston," Wenzler said.

The I-Team also tracked down Major General Terry “Max” Haston after the budget hearing.

During the military investigation, Wenzler was Haston’s chief of staff.

"Do you have any concerns about what the military investigators found?" Finley asked.

"I have concern about it. However, I will tell you, having been through numerous investigations. That investigation was very shallow. And Col. Wenzler has denied these allegations that's in there,” Haston said.

"Can you explain why Col. Wenzler was re-hired despite the findings from military investigators?" Finley asked.

“Because he was absolutely the best man for the job. He has the background, he has the experience, and has everything that the job needs and takes,” Haston said.

But Brian Clubb, coordinator of the military and veterans advocacy program for the Battered Women’s Justice Project, has concerns about Wenzler’s re-hiring.

"It sends a bad message. When he was re-hired, I think it's saying, we don't care about sexual harassment and that if your rank is high enough, nothing is going to happen to you,” Clubb said.

The I-Team showed the military investigation to Gov. Bill Haslam.

"Are you concerned at all that it sends a negative message about how sexual harassment is handled in the Tennessee National Guard?” Finley asked.

"We treat sexual harassment very seriously. Again, he (Wenzler) personally - the situation - because of the decision by the army, he wouldn't be able to be promoted. He left. Because General Haston feels he had the appropriate discipline at that point. And for the past five years, he's been an exemplary employee,” Haslam said.

Wenzler’s military investigation is the latest discovery in our ongoing “Dishonorable Conduct” investigation into the Tennessee National Guard, which you can read here.

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