Less than a month before Vice Admiral William Moran was set to become Chief of Naval Operations—the Navy's top uniformed officer—he instead announced over the weekend he had declined the position and would retire. The move comes after Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer questioned Moran's judgment because Moran "maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession," Spencer said in a statement. Moran, in his own statement, referenced "an open investigation into the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years" and acknowledged that he had "continu[ed] to maintain a professional relationship with a former staff officer, now retired, who had while in uniform been investigated and held accountable over allegations of inappropriate behavior."
Sources tell CNN and NBC News that the person in question is retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Servello, a former Navy public affairs official who left the military in 2018 after the Pentagon Inspector General conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. The Washington Post reports Servello was accused of acting inappropriately toward females while dressed as Santa at a Pentagon holiday party. "To be clear, my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of this kind of conduct," Moran's statement continues. "I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked. Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation." Sources say Servello had worked for and with Moran over the course of about a decade, and that Moran had mentored Servello. The current Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, was expected to retire when Moran took over; now he will continue to serve until a replacement is named. (Read more Navy stories.)