Marines Inquiry Lists Misdeeds by Ex-El Toro Chief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The former commander of the Marine Corps' western air bases flew a fighter jet repeatedly while on heart medication, accepted expensive champagne glasses from a business associate and spent $7,000 in government funds to decorate his base quarters, documents obtained by The Times show.

The report, compiled by the Marine Corps inspector general's office in an investigation of Brig. Gen. Wayne T. Adams, found that these actions and others broke military policy and amounted to "a dereliction of duty" by Adams, who lost his job at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in May amid allegations of using military planes for personal matters.

Despite the report, none of these infractions were included in the censure that Adams received last week from his current commander at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., after an in-house disciplinary proceeding.

The commander, Lt. Gen. Ernest T. Cook Jr., overrode the findings and found them to be "unsubstantiated." Instead, he cited Adams for wrongdoing in connection with a single trip to Big Bear last year with his fiancee and issued him a letter of reprimand because of it.

The letter of reprimand, a rare action against a general officer, is considered a serious rebuke and will probably end any chance of career advancement for Adams, military officials say. Cook could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Adams, who has maintained his innocence since allegations of plane misuse first surfaced in The Times in April, refused comment on most specific points of the report, but said that he considered the inspector general's conclusions to be "opinions, not fact."

The inspector general's office opened its investigation into Adams' actions after a report in The Times that Adams had mixed personal outings and business trips while using military aircraft under his command at El Toro. Several of the flights came shortly before Adams suspended two of his top aides in January for alleged plane misuse.

One of the aides, Col. James E. Sabow, shot himself to death a few days after his dismissal in January.

Among the inspector general's findings:

* Adams failed to tell military doctors that he was taking two medications for an irregular heartbeat, including one that can affect flying performance, from 1988 through 1991. Adams, who collected $2,000 in flight pay during that time while piloting the F-18 jet fighter, "would have been grounded" had officials been notified as required that he was on medication, the report says.

The inspector general's office concluded that Adams' behavior was "potentially dangerous, unnecessary and unwarranted."

* Adams accepted $200 worth of champagne flutes and champagne from Gary Hunt, senior vice president of the Irvine Co., and his wife, as a wedding gift in December, 1990.

Hunt is heading negotiations for the Irvine Co. with the El Toro Marine base over the Marines' plans to modify flight plans around the base and adjust noise levels in surrounding communities. Officials said the gift had the appearance of a conflict and, according to the report, violated military policy.

Adams and Hunt said they saw no conflict, however.

* After moving into his personal quarters at El Toro in August, 1990, Adams authorized the purchase of $7,000 in cabinets, chairs, tables, a sofa and other items. Investigators called these purchases "excessive and not in keeping with the spirit" of military regulations.

* Adams misused government planes on at least three occasions: stopping off in Florida to sign his divorce papers en route to a convention in Virginia last year; getting a plane to shuttle him to the base and back to Big Bear last October during a trip with his fiancee; and getting a plane to take him back from Burbank to Yuma, Ariz., after a family emergency in 1987.

Cook cited Adams only in connection with the Big Bear trip--for using the government plane improperly, falsifying an expense claim and lying to investigators. According to the inspector general's report, Adams claimed he had inspected the Marine recreational facility while at Big Bear with his fiancee, but there is no evidence such an inspection took place.

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