By Donna Leinwand | USA TODAY
The Civil Air Patrol’s executive director has announced his resignation amid a swirl of controversy, less than one month after the FBI raided the group’s Montgomery, AL, headquarters.
Paul Albano’s resignation, effective Oct 3, comes as the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer Air Force civilian auxiliary, tries to weather intense government scrutiny and allegations of misuse of federal funds. Albano announced his resignation Thursday at the group’s national conference in Denver.
A press release issued by Civil Air Patrol Friday made no mention of the organization’s troubles.
In his announcement, Albano maintained he had met the goals set by CAP’s national board.
“I know that the Civil Air Patrol is now well-positioned to meet the challenges of the next century,” he said.
CAP National Commander Gen James Bobick accepted the resignation, and praised Albano.
“Paul personifies the values of CAP,” Bobick said.
The organization’s release credited Albano’s leadership for increasing cadet membership 30 percent and general membership by 20 percent. Albano, a pharmacist who has owned several small drug stores in Birmingham, said he intends to pursue other business and management opportunities that would allow him to spend more time with his family.
CAP leadership and the Air Force have wrestled for two years over the organization of the group. In May, the battle raged publicly after the Air Force asked Congress for greater control over CAP’s budget and operations.
CAP, known for its search and rescue missions, receives about $28 million in federal funds each year from the Air Force budget. Several Air Force audits have accused CAP leadership of mismanaging funds, spending lavishly on first class travel, retaliating against members who pointed out abuses, and losing track of federally purchased communications equipment.
CAP leaders have denied the charges.
The Air Force declined to comment on Albano’s specific role in CAP’s troubles. But James Wolffe, special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, said, “Our recent concerns about CAP’s headquarters operations are not personality driven.”
“They are related to ensuring that the money taxpayers invest in CAP is well and safely spent,” Wolffe said.
Last month, more than 20 FBI agents raided the Montgomery headquarters, spending 14 hours carting out records and downloading computer hard drives with agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The agents also served warrants on CAP installations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico and Florida.
Albano was out of town when the raids occurred.
A spokesman for the Office of Special Investigations said the probe focuses on alleged misuse of federal funds. CAP issued a statement after the raid:
“We are confident that the Civil Air Patrol properly managed the federal funds appropriated to CAP. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we will have no further comment on this issue.”