PHOENIX - The leader of Arizona's Air National Guard was fired by the state's top National Guard officer after a heated email exchange that followed completion of an investigation targeting the air guard commander.
Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo was relieved of command on Aug. 14 by Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, who commands all guard forces in the state as the adjutant general.
Salazar said he dismissed Colangelo because of a breakdown in trust, according to the Arizona Republic.
The firing came after an Air Force Inspector General's report was issued finding Colangelo abused his authority and Salazar issued him written reprimand and warned him he would be dismissed if the findings were upheld. Colangelo is contesting the Inspector General findings and wrote a rebuttal letter challenging Salazar's disciplinary action.
The investigation was prompted by complaints from four senior officers whom Colangelo had dismissed with Salazar's approval for alleged misconduct.
Colangelo, a Guard member for half of his 34-year military career, declined comment. But state records documenting his firing include an email exchange between Colangelo and Salazar.
"Sir. Your deceit and very obvious dishonorable intentions toward me are leaving me no choice but to seek relief outside of the immediate chain of command," Colangelo wrote an Aug. 10 email to Salazar. He complained that the reprimand and warning memo were "irrational and unfounded," and that Salazar knew the Inspector General findings were false.
Salazar responded hours later and relieved Colangelo of his command.
"Your email below is beyond inappropriate; it is false and blatantly disrespectful ... Effective immediately I am suspending you from both of your positions in AZNG with an eye toward removal," Salazar wrote. "I am saddened that this action has become necessary, particularly when considering your many years of service ... But your actions leave me no choice. I have lost confidence in your judgment."
Salazar declined comment on specifics of the Inspector General's findings. But he confirmed the probe was sought by four Air Guard officers who had been fired by Colangelo. Those dismissed included a one-star general who commanded the 162nd Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Colangelo's wife, Robin, wrote to Brewer and said her husband was "relieved from his job for making the tough right choices" that included termination of subordinates for unethical behavior. Robin Colangelo's letter includes allegations challenging the integrity of Salazar and other officers. She implored Brewer to investigate.
Another letter to the governor came from Ulay Littleton, of Tucson, a brigadier general who retired in 2010. Littleton wrote that he was still a commander when the Air Guard scandal first erupted, and he knows the Inspector General report to be a "hatchet job."
"Additionally, I believe MG (Maj. Gen.) Salazar is using the report as a means to get rid of Gen. Colangelo since he views Gen. Colangelo as a threat to his continuing as the Arizona Adjutant General," Littleton concluded.
In an interview, Littleton described Colangelo as "one of the finest officers I've ever worked for," and said his termination is "a gross injustice."
The Arizona National Guard reports to the governor. Its 5,500 personnel may be called to federal service under the Department of Defense.
The guard is divided into Air and Army branches under the leadership of Salazar, known as the adjutant general. Colangelo led the air branch and was assistant adjutant general.
"It's about the relationship," Salazar said of the dismissal. "My action against him was just because I wanted to go in a different direction. He was not terminated for the I.G. complaints."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
RIGHT NOW on ABC15.com
President Barack Obama will be meeting with his disaster response team, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, on Tuesday before delivering a statement on the devastating tornado.
An Amber Alert has been issued Monday night for a 3-year-old boy abducted Monday night from his mother's home in Tolleson.
At least 51 people were killed, including at least 20 children, and officials said the death toll was expected to rise.
Find out just how high temperatures will soar this week.
Several groups are collecting donations for tornado victims. Some have indicated that financial donations are preferred over supplies.
Natives of Oklahoma who moved to the Valley have been glued to social media in hopes of learning about their loved ones.
Co-workers of Officer Daryl Raetz's wife Stephanie put together a website, hoping to raise money for the family.
Arizona's rescue and recovery team for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are on standby if they are called to help in Oklahoma.
You can raise your social media positives and bury your negatives.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says "hearts are broken" for parents wondering about the fate of their children after a tornado devastated suburban Oklahoma City and officials say the search and rescue effort will continue throughout the night.