- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A high-level, Topeka-based Veterans Affairs official has been fired following an investigation into inappropriate conduct regarding sexually charged communication.

Former Health Resource Center director Robert Downs received the VA’s decision to terminate his employment April 12, the Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/2pqfyC5 ) reported.

The investigation beginning in 2016 alleged Downs and a female VA employee exchanged hundreds of salacious chat messages, most made during business hours, for over two years.

“It was a pathetic action of a middle-aged man trying to rediscover his youth,” Downs said Thursday. “I’m ashamed of myself.”

The woman was based out of the Asheville, North Carolina, VA Medical Center.

In addition to sexually provocative messages, the two allegedly discussed travel plans to see each other, visiting a strip club together, open marriage and the woman’s job prospects at Kansas VA offices.

Downs said the relationship was consensual and no one benefited professionally. But he said he still accepts the firing.

“I take full responsibility for this affair. I take full responsibility for the actions. I am not appealing my termination. I accept it,” Downs said. “It was a violation of what I stood for and who I am.”

The U.S. House passed the VA Accountability First Act last month, which proposes quicker removal, demotion or suspension of VA employees found engaging in misconduct.

“We owe it to our veterans to give them the best health care that we can. Right now I feel like we’re falling short of that,” said U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who voted in favor of the bill. “We can do better, and that’s the goal of that legislation is to just try to raise the bar and make everyone more accountable so we can get the best service that we can for these folks who have been on the front lines for us.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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