Pentagon watchdog cites ex-aide to defense secretary for misconduct

October 6, 2016 2:27 PM EDT

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By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former top military aide to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter used his government credit card to pay bills at night clubs, lied about it and behaved inappropriately with female subordinates, the Pentagon watchdog said on Thursday.

In a written response to the watchdog's report, former aide Army Major General Ron Lewis disagreed with its conclusions and disputed some of the facts, but said he was aware of "mistakes, errors in judgment, and perceptions" he may have created.

Carter fired Lewis in November after learning of allegations of misconduct, a move that effectively demoted him as well. In a statement on Thursday, Carter said the Army would decide on any additional punitive action.

Military aides serve an important function for their civilian bosses, joining them on official trips and advising on military issues.

But the report described a pattern of questionable behavior by Lewis.

In April 2015, during a trip to South Korea, Lewis visited the "Candy Bar" club in Seoul and charged $1100 to his government credit card, including an 81 percent tip, the report said. The club was off-limits to U.S. military personnel because it served alcohol to underage customers.

Upon returning to Washington, Lewis denied making the charges at Candy Bar and reported them as fraudulent, which the report said were lies.

In his response to the report, Lewis noted the receipts for the transactions did not have his signature, and contained only "scrawls or marks" in the signature block.

In October 2015, during a trip to Rome, Lewis, who is married, visited "Cica Cica Boom," a club advertising lap dances and a "sexy show," the report stated.

After dancing and drinking for three hours, Lewis tried to pay his $1800 bill with his personal debit card, but it was declined. Lewis returned to his hotel with a female employee of the club at around 1:40 a.m. to get his government card.

In his statement, Lewis admitted he "made a mistake" in charging nightclub expenses to his government card, but said the club he visited was not a strip club but was rather a "high-end establishment" where couples were dancing.

In other instances, Lewis "engaged in physical contact with female subordinates observed by witnesses where the contact was not incidental or innocuous," the report stated.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; editing by Grant McCool)

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