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Police Academy in the Alps | The Nation

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Police Academy in the Alps

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Yet from the very beginning, the Marshall Center has been plagued by troubles. A primary cause was Bernstein's failed leadership. A former Pentagon staffer during the Bush Sr. Administration and professor of history at Cornell, Bernstein operated without an internal budget or spending plan. Soon after taking command, he arbitrarily doubled the size of the faculty and altered the curriculum, which led to a huge budget shortfall and delayed classes for a year. Bernstein received a salary of $113,000 and lived in a lavish home (it had been expropriated from a wealthy Jewish businessman by the Nazis and later turned into a German officers' club) that the government purchased and spent $165,000 to renovate. Meanwhile, he spent about $40,000 on office furniture for his work quarters and another $237,000 on furniture for a college conference center.

Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

About the Author

Ken Silverstein
Ken Silverstein is a Washington, DC–based investigative reporter.

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In March 1994, five months before the first group of students arrived, the IG began an audit of the school after receiving a hotline tip. Two years later, Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for American armed forces personnel overseas, ran a series that chronicled a variety of scandals at the Marshall Center. Phil Robbins, who served as the Stars and Stripes ombudsman at the time, said Bernstein tried hard to suppress the series. "He called and said that the reporters were browbeating witnesses and violating journalistic ethics," Robbins said. "I investigated and found that his complaints were totally unwarranted."

The top brass at the Pentagon publicly dismissed the Stars and Stripes account, with then-Defense Secretary William Perry calling the charges "exaggerated and overblown." Still, the newspaper's series led to further investigations, and the IG subsequently concluded that Bernstein had exhibited a "wide-ranging pattern" of inappropriate behavior and had "ignored ethics regulations."

Perry continued to ignore troubles at the school, even though he and other officials had access to a separate investigation of the Marshall Center by a Pentagon-appointed team. The investigation was never made public, but a copy of a summary, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch and provided to The Nation, shows that it was withering in its criticism. Dated October 4, 1996, the summary said that the team was "besieged by people" at the Marshall Center who wanted to voice their complaints, which included sexual harassment, misuse of official vehicles and cronyism. The lead member of the team, Randy Jayne, reported that "allegations of misconduct and lack of accountability were mentioned by scores of people from different perspectives. The concerns were not confined to a particular group--but spanned the entire population.... Seasoned 30-year federal employees told the team it was the worst management they had ever seen."

Jayne also criticized the IG process at the Marshall Center, saying it had been far too indulgent of problems and assumed that "as things settled down, the processes would stabilize and get under control." Jayne said that belief was "absolutely not true," and charged that the IG had been "co-opted by [the center's] top management."

Investigators also found that Bernstein rewarded toadies--especially a group of retired colonels whom he had appointed to top administrative posts--and treated critics brutally. The most notorious case involved Col. Ernest Beinhart, the commandant of the Marshall Center's principal division, the College of Strategic Studies and Defense Economics. When Bernstein addressed the first group of students in August 1994, he singled out Beinhart for praise, saying he had "poured himself" into the job of getting the college started. Four months later, Bernstein fired the commandant, saying he had "failed to develop a mentor relationship."

Beinhart, a highly decorated Marine, charges that he was axed because he questioned Bernstein's decisions, said they were potentially illegal and correctly predicted that they would produce budgetary problems. The IG found that Beinhart had been fired without warning, and that his "peers indicated they had no indication the commandant was ever counseled because of his performance." Kenneth Hill, the State Department's ambassador-in-residence at the Marshall Center during much of this period, says that he witnessed numerous examples of fraud, waste and mismanagement, which Beinhart tried to stop. "Ernest Beinhart was dismissed for doing his job and doing it well, and with the flimsiest of pretexts," he says. "He is a man of total integrity and principle." Beinhart's firing also angered foreign nationals at the center. "The whole story looked as if it had happened to a Soviet colonel in the times of Stalin," says Victor Kremenyuk, a Russian professor who taught at the school. "For the majority of the students, all the ideas they learned about 'democracy' and the 'rule of law' were immediately destroyed when they learned about Beinhart's dismissal."

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