WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-level Defense Department official has been placed on administrative leave following his arrest for stealing license plates in a dispute over a neighborhood parking permit, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Bryan Whitman, a civilian leader in the Pentagon's public affairs office, is on leave pending a legal review by human resources officials and has had his security clearance suspended. The review will include questions about his ongoing access to classified information, according to U.S. officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Whitman was charged with three counts of theft for stealing license plates from a car belonging to a neighbor's nanny and leaving a threatening note. The charges, which came to light Wednesday, stunned Pentagon officials and co-workers and raised questions about a potential Defense Department investigation.
Whitman has a security clearance, and under Defense Department regulations, he is required to notify officials if he is arrested. He did not respond to a request for comment, and it's unclear if he ever formally reported the arrest to any security officials.
According to U.S. officials, top Pentagon leaders didn't learn about the problem until they were contacted Wednesday by The Washington Post, which was first to report the arrest.
A former member of the Army's special forces, Whitman is the principal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs and had been overseeing the Pentagon's community relations office.
In an agreement reached with the Superior Court in Washington, the charges against him will be dropped if he pays $1,000 in restitution, does 32 hours of community service at a local food bank, stays away from the neighbors and the nanny and doesn't get into trouble for 10 months.
The dispute began April 4, when Whitman allegedly put a note on a car belonging to the nanny, which was parked in his neighborhood on Capitol Hill.
"I know you are misusing this visitor pass to park here daily. If you do not stop I will report it, have your car towed and the resident who provided this to you will have his privileges taken away," the note on her white Lexus said, according to the police report.
Two days later, both of her license plates were taken. The family she works for replaced the plates and two days later the rear license plate was taken. The family then mounted a camera outside that covered the street and sidewalk, and on April 21 the rear plate was taken again, but this time they had it on video.
The Associated Press is not identifying the nanny or the family who were the apparent victims of the theft.
Terry Owens, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, said it's legal for nannies or babysitters to use visitor parking passes at any time.
According to the police report, officers reviewed the video — which showed a man moving around the nanny's car and crouched down at the rear of the vehicle — and then went to Whitman's house in late April with a warrant. The report said that, when asked about the license plates, Whitman went to his car and retrieved them and turned them over to the police.
Whitman was charged on May 5, and on Tuesday he reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the court for the restitution and community service.
Associated Press writer Ben Nuckols contributed to this report.