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Coast Guard Academy: Master chief permanently relieved of duties, investigation finds no evidence of sexual misconduct

Master Chief Petty Officer Brett Verhulst, former 17th District command master chief. (U.S. Coast Guard/Released)
July 27, 2021

The Coast Guard Academy announced Friday afternoon that Master Chief Brett VerHulst was permanently relieved earlier this month but an investigation found no evidence of sexual assault, harassment or contact.

Superintendent Rear Adm. William Kelly had announced in an email to staff on April 27 that VerHulst “resigned his duties” as the command master chief, the senior enlisted leader at the academy, effective immediately.

The Coast Guard later said VerHulst had been temporarily relieved of his primary duties, and that the Coast Guard Investigative Service was “conducting an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct” by VerHulst.

“A small number of academy personnel reported that Master Chief VerHulst demonstrated behaviors in personal interactions that made them uncomfortable,” academy spokesperson David Santos said in an email Friday. “This resulted in the Superintendent’s loss of confidence that Master Chief VerHulst could continue to perform his duties effectively. A subsequent investigation found no evidence of sexual assault, sexual contact, or sexual harassment.”

Santos said in May that Kelly “lost confidence in Master Chief Brett VerHulst’s ability to serve as Command Master Chief of the Academy, and reassigned VerHulst to the Coast Guard Research and Development Center while he awaited orders for his retirement.”

The announcement of VerHulst’s reassignment came in late April. The academy hadn’t previously mentioned retirement.

The academy said the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center permanently relieved VerHulst on July 9, and that he “is currently on terminal leave before his retirement and is no longer performing military duties.”

Santos didn’t respond to calls Friday afternoon seeking further clarification but later answered a subsequent email with questions.

In it, he said the Coast Guard “will not comment on the specifics of the investigation to protect the rights and the privacy of the individuals involved.”

However, asked why VerHulst was being permanently relieved of his duties if the investigation found no evidence of sexual assault, sexual contact or sexual harassment, Santos responded: “The Superintendent lost confidence in Master Chief VerHulst’s continued ability to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of a senior enlisted advisor because his actions did not comport with the highest levels of professionalism which we expect from members serving in such leadership positions in the Coast Guard.”

The Day has refiled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents pertaining to the investigation; the Coast Guard Investigative Service denied a previous request, saying the probe was ongoing.

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