Maj. Gen. William H. Wade II, who led the California National Guard from 2005 until early last year, was summarily removed Wednesday from active service as a Guard member.
Guard officials called the removal of a former California adjutant general in this fashion unprecedented.
The action by current Adjutant General David S. Baldwin stemmed from a controversy over Wade's pay as Guard leader.
A Bee investigation published in April found that Wade had received about $155,000 in improper double-dip earnings two days' pay for a single day of work. Last month, after state officials completed their own analysis, the California controller demanded that Wade repay $80,720.
Due to the statute of limitations for recoupment, Wade was billed for overpayments during just the last 22 months of his tenure.
The general currently serves as NATO deputy chief of staff for operations in Italy. To date, the Guard has not received any payment from him, said Maj. Thomas Keegan, a Guard spokesman.
Baldwin issued a statement that "Wade is hereby transferred to the retired list, effective immediately. The soldiers and airmen of the California National Guard are best served by this action."
Baldwin acted in concert with Gov. Jerry Brown, who appointed him to head the Guard in April.
"Gov. Brown agrees with Gen. Baldwin that removing Gen. Wade from the National Guard is the best way forward for the organization," said Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the governor. "The action is final."
The impact of Wade's forced retirement on his current posting remains unclear. Neither the general nor his representatives in NATO could be reached for comment. The U.S. Army is examining Wade's status, said an Army spokesman.
Wade's removal is one in a series of moves Baldwin has made to address problems in the Guard exposed by Bee investigations beginning last October. Baldwin previously described the problems as "monumental," and the solution as cultural change for an organization that had "lost its way, ethically and morally."
Among his major challenges: The Guard's largest training site, Camp Roberts, has been allowed to fall into disrepair. A Guard auditor concluded that service members improperly received extra pay for emergency fire duty, and federal auditors reported that pilots had double-dipped. A Bee examination of pilot work schedules found that they also routinely violated safety and security rules.
In an October report, The Bee exposed fraud involving payments meant as recruiting incentives. A federal auditor estimated up to $100 million in improper benefits went to hundreds of service members going back several years. That case and the pilot-pay issue are the subject of federal criminal investigations.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said Wade's removal from the Guard serves as an important symbol for efforts to improve the military agency. In the past, improprieties would simply be overlooked, said Lieu, who also serves as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
"This sends a signal that the new leadership will crack down on people who violate the law," he said. "I'm glad they are doing this in a very public manner so that Guard members will know that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior."
Under Baldwin's command, several leaders implicated in the incentive fraud problems have been removed from the Guard or placed in jobs with less responsibility. He formed a task force to examine incentive payments and initiate recoupment where required.
Baldwin also has ordered a review of payroll records for all recent Guard generals including himself. If improper compensation is detected, the Guard would seek to have it repaid.
Wade earned a base annual state salary of more than $200,000 when he headed the Guard, and on average took in $50,000 extra in federal pay annually. Guard members who also are state employees may collect limited dual payments from both the federal and state governments on the same days, but Wade was found by The Bee, and then in the state's analysis, to have exceeded allowed limits.
He previously contended that state rules limiting dual pay did not apply to him as adjutant general.
In response to the Bee investigation, Senate Bill 806 is working its way through the Legislature. It would increase the period for recouping improperly paid funds from three to six years.