A retired lieutenant colonel and Senior Executive Service civilian in the Army’s inspector general office is facing punishment after an investigation found that he kissed, groped and otherwise disrespected four women who worked for him.
The complaints against Joe Guzowski ranged from unwanted kissing and touching to disrespectful language and behavior, including comments about subordinates’ weight, the inspector general investigation found. All five allegations were substantiated.
“We stand by our overall conclusion that he failed to treat subordinates with dignity and respect,” wrote the author of the Jan. 9 report.
The Defense Department IG stepped in after an Army Criminal lnvestigation Command cleared him of breaking any laws, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jason Brown told Army Times on Wednesday.
Guzowski, an Army inspection policy subject matter expert, denied all of the allegations against him, either stating he did not remember the incidents or that the complainants had taken his comments or actions out of context.
The first report, filed in January 2017, accused him of touching a female subordinate’s hip and buttocks weeks earlier while trading seats with her in a meeting with their mutual boss.
That initial complaint, the report found, led investigators to three other women. The earliest incident occurred in 2012, the investigation found, when Guzowski met a female subordinate for a drink after work, under the guise that he would counsel her on dealing with an issue at the office.
After suggesting that they go home and change into casual clothes before meeting, which the woman refused, he began “continuously reaching over … trying to get me to take my jacket off,” as they sat side-by-side at a bar.
The woman accepted a ride home from him afterward, she said, because she’d had a drink and did not want to drive. When she exited the car, he approached her and kissed her, she told investigators.
That same month, she said, he brushed his hands against her buttocks as he passed her in a hallway.
The remaining incidents took place in 2016, according to the report. In one instance, a complainant said, Guzowski offered to switch seats with her in a meeting.
“Mr. Guzowski then placed his right hand on the right side of her waist just above her hip, squeezed her waist, then slid his hand down into the right side of her buttocks,”the report said.
After consulting with a confidant, her husband and a superior at work, the complainant filed the original 2017 report against Guzowski.
“I know the difference between someone mistakenly touching me and deliberately,” she said.
‘You’re the lunch lady’
The remaining complaints against Guzowski veered from a sexual tone to one of humiliation, according to the investigation.
In one instance, two African-American IG employees took offense to his remark, while boarding an elevator at a conference, that one of them was an “elevator boy.”
At that same conference, another woman said, he tossed $15 over her shoulder as he gave a presentation during a luncheon, after she had mentioned to him on his way in that he had yet to reimburse her for the cost of the meal.
When he ran into her at another conference later that year, she told the investigators, he remarked, “Oh, I know you — you’re the lunch lady.”
Finally, Guzowski was accused of making remarks about coworkers’ weight while in the workplace. The first complainant, from the kissing incident, alleged that he changed the subject during a conversation about their weighted performance evaluations to talk about her body.
“And speaking of weight, you know, you should go ahead and do what I’m doing so that you can lose weight,” he said, referencing his aversion to carbohydrates, which many of his colleagues were aware of.
“Someone’s belly is hanging over the belt,” another witness recalled him saying.
Guzowski denied all of the complaints against him, adding that he had counseled one complainant multiple times about her conduct, and that she had a vendetta against him.
“Mr. Guzowski questioned the Complainants’ motivations and credibility,” according to the report. “He also asserted that the Complainants did not follow required reporting procedures regarding his alleged action.”
The women told investigators that they shared the events with others at the time, but did not immediately report them for fear of causing a scene at work and having to deal with those repercussions.
“You don’t want to be in an adversarial relationship with the guy now supposed to protect me,” one said.
Other colleagues, when asked to describe Guzowski, said that he had a “touchy-feely” reputation and could often act and speak inappropriately.
“Another witness told us Mr. Guzowski recognized excellence in people and ‘speaks from the heart, though he’ll say things that may no[t be] appropriate for today’s time.’”
Others said they had experienced, or heard of, touching that crossed the line.
“One witness said that anytime Mr. Guzowski is talking to someone, he had to touch the person,” according to the report. “Another witness heard that Mr. Guzowski was ‘handsy’ but he had not witnessed it himself.“
While no colleagues described him as malicious or aggressive, multiple respondents did describe him as lacking self-awareness.
“This witness described Mr. Guzowski as being ‘socially awkward,’ and said, ‘he just doesn’t see himself in the context of a conversation with some of the terms that he uses,’ according to the report. “I just see him as just a socially inept and almost a level of immaturity in being able to see himself, and recognize that as a shortfall.”
The IG recommended further action from the Army in its conclusion. Any actions are pending, Brown, the Army spokesman, said.
“We are currently reviewing the results of that investigation to determine appropriate action,” he said. “As this is under review, we cannot provide any further comment at this time.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.