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Report: CO torpedoed career for 'perfect woman'

Jul. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Capt. Shawn Hendricks was relieved as program manager for naval enterprise networks on June 24.
Capt. Shawn Hendricks was relieved as program manager for naval enterprise networks on June 24. (Navy)
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It was awkward timing: The manager heading the Navy’s next-generation intranet push was abruptly fired on the eve of the big contracting announcement in late June.

But behind the scenes, Capt. Shawn Hendricks’ troubles had been mounting for some time.

The 45-year-old commanding officer, who headed the office overseeing the massive contract for the Navy’s future computer network, had taken an interest in one of his subordinates: A 32-year-old who worked for the contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and served as Hendricks’ personal aide.

She worked in Hendricks’ office and escorted him to meetings. They traveled together. They ate lunch together. At after-work outings, he ordered her drinks.

No one saw them embrace at work, but Hendricks was having marriage troubles and admitted to one person that the situation at work was getting complicated.

She was “the perfect woman,” Hendricks told a co-worker, according to a report released July 25. The co-worker added: “Having her in the workplace made it, uhm, made him not want to work out his marriage.”

Rumors began swirling in 2011, before Hendricks separated from his wife of 15 years. An anonymous tipster complained to authorities in February 2013, according to the report.

Navy investigators found that, indeed, Hendricks had entered into an affair that ran afoul the military’s law against adultery and propriety: The female aide reported to Hendricks, who provided input on her evaluations and oversaw the Booz Allen contract. Other contractors worried that an affair may affect the fairness of the upcoming bid on technical services, currently held by Booz Allen.

“I think there was quite a bit of concern,” one manager told the investigators from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command; Navy Times obtained the 27-page report via a Freedom of Information Act request. Hendricks was fired June 24.

Navy leaders have stressed that the affair did not affect the fairness of the $3.5 billion Next Generation Enterprise Network contract awarded three days later to HP Enterprise Services, a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary. The female contractor — whose name has been redacted from the report for privacy reasons — was not a member of any bidding team, said Sean Stackley, an assistant Navy secretary, and there is no evidence in the newly released report that their affair affected the NGEN contract decision.

The losing bidders, led by Computer Sciences Corp., have lodged a protest. A CSC spokeswoman declined to comment on the basis for the protest or say whether the newly released report may play a factor.

Hendricks, who was reassigned to SPAWAR’s Washington Liaison office, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment. He is an aerospace engineering duty officer and former test pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1989. His LinkedIn profile status now reads, “Transitioning to civilian career.”

'It was probably wrong'

Hendricks had been warned. One female naval officer confronted him and said his behavior would jeopardize both their careers. It would risk her reputation and upend his command.

“You really, you’re going to hurt yourself, you know that,” she recalled telling him, according to the SPAWAR inspector general report. “She’s very intelligent, a very capable young woman and she doesn’t need the reputation that, you know, she’s achieved what she’s achieved for any reason other than her competence.”

“My advice to you is for both your sakes that you admire from afar if you have to, but leave it alone,” the officer added.

Hendricks didn’t take that advice. He admitted later that he’d started seeing his aide soon after he separated from his wife in January 2012. For at least seven months, Hendricks slept with the aide while both maintained to colleagues that nothing was going on, a situation that the IG report labeled “a charade.”

He started staying in her Washington, D.C., apartment, where she said he “pretty much” lives.

When confronted by investigators, Hendricks made no attempt to deny what had gone on.

“We recognized it was probably wrong,” Hendricks told them. “No, let me say that differently. We recognized it was wrong, uhm, stopped on a couple of occasions.”

The contractor left her Booz Allen job in September, eliminating the conflict of interest, and Hendricks filed for divorce in late December. But the damage had been done. Other contractors grew concerned that the affair may affect the Booz Allen contract, which Hendricks was responsible for assessing.

Adultery is a crime punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and so the investigators grilled Hendricks and his lover about whether they had sex. Hendricks admitted that he lived in her one-bedroom apartment and that he slept with her. But he refused to say any more.

“I recognize the impropriety,” Hendricks said. “I am sorry for that, but I’m not sorry that, that we love each other.”

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