The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that the Florida National Guard is under investigation for sexual misconduct just as a change in leadership is about to take place. Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun retires April 6 as commander of the Florida National Guard and Gov. Ron DeSantis will name a replacement.
Among the allegations: that an officer joked he would hang a sign-up sheet outside the office of a female contractor so people could sign up for sexual favors from her in 15-minute increments.
Some of the allegations are spelled out in an email to a state lawmaker written by Maj. Elliot Potter, a Tampa-based officer in the Florida National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps. Potter researched the allegations and forwarded them to his superiors. A copy of his email was obtained by the Times.
One man Potter accuses in a coverup is the guard’s No. 2 in command, Brig. Gen. Mike Canzoneri, who is among a group of officers eligible to replace Calhoun.
According to Potter, Canzoneri and another officer “have actively concealed evidence of sexual misconduct and other violence committed against soldiers of the Florida National Guard.”
Among the people whose complaints fueled the investigations is Shira Callahan, a 46-year-old former civilian contractor for the guard who has filed sworn statements with the guard’s Inspector General’s Office. Callahan alleges a pattern of sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing by guard soldiers and leaders.
She said in an October 2017 sworn statement that Canzoneri came up to her during a break in a 2011 conference and “slowly ran his hand from one side of my bare shoulder to the other.”
She also said Canzoneri made sexual gestures to a female bartender during the same conference and ended a two-year affair he had with a female soldier then transferred the soldier after she refused to have sex with his friends.
What’s more, Callahan accused Canzoneri of covering up for another officer she named in her complaints — Lt. Col. Scott L. Taylor.
As a result of Callahan’s allegations, Taylor was found to have “created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” for her, according to a September 2017 letter from Army Col. Leslie F. Caballero, inspector general with the Florida National Guard.
Caballero called it “conduct that brings discredit to the Florida National Guard.”
If the allegations are true, the incoming head of the National Guard will have a tough job restoring order and integrity. Not a good time for the National Guard whose members selflessly assist in domestic emergencies such as hurricane relief and other natural disasters.