A decision earlier this month to place S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom in command of the South Carolina State Guard is being questioned given his widely-publicized affair and high-profile divorce.
Eckstrom was named interim commander of the State Guard earlier this month. Since then, numerous sources have told FITS that they believe he should be relieved of that command based on his personal foibles.
Obviously, infidelity isn’t illegal – nor is it necessarily hazardous to one’s political career. But it’s clearly something that military leaders frown upon – particularly under certain circumstances.
According to the uniform code of military justice, adultery is not specifically listed as an offense punishable by court martial. However, in some instances it can be prosecuted as “conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
Specifically the manual for military courts martial outlines three criteria for such a prosecution.
First, it must be proven that “the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person.” Second, it must be proven that “the accused or the other person was married to someone else” at the time of the adulterous act. Finally, it must be proven that “the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
“Adultery is clearly unacceptable conduct, and it reflects adversely on the service record of the military member,” the manual states.
So … does Eckstrom’s conduct fit these three criteria? Obviously he’s admitted his guilt on the first two counts, but what about the third? Has Eckstrom “brought discredit” to the military?
In addition to his recent affair with former GOP superintendent of education candidate Kelly Payne, Eckstrom settled a sexual harassment suit filed against him while he was serving as State Treasurer. The woman, Leanne R. Johnson, received $57,000 from South Carolina taxpayers as a result of the settlement.
Eckstrom may have had additional affairs. In fact, FITS is investigating reports that Eckstrom had an affair with one of his staffers as well as a statewide official in another state. Eckstrom is said to have confirmed the latter relationship to multiple sources, although a spokesman for the elected official – who works in Oklahoma – has denied his allegation.
Obviously, we don’t believe Eckstrom should be subjected to a military court martial. Our guess is that tons of military personnel engage in affairs, and besides – the “prejudice of good order” and “bring discredit” criteria are inherently subjective.
Having said that, we believe that the State Guard erred in placing Eckstrom in a position of leadership – and should find someone more fitting to fill this position.
A division of the S.C. Adjutant General’s office, the State Guard responds to emergencies in coordination with the S.C. National Guard and the state’s Emergency Management Division (EMD). Eckstrom currently holds the rank of brigadier general within the organization.
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