University official resigns after Afghanistan bombing claim
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A high-ranking New York university official resigned Monday after a newspaper challenged his story about surviving a deadly bombing in Afghanistan, being offered a job by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and other claims.
The State University of New York Upstate Medical University announced that senior vice president Sergio Garcia resigned his $340,000-a-year job effective immediately after a request by the school’s president.
The resignation came after the Times Union of Albany reported that in a videotaped speech last fall, Garcia claimed he was part of a three-vehicle convoy delivering books to an all-girls school in Afghanistan in 2011 when a blast killed many of his colleagues, including a young woman he had mentored.
“I was in the third car, the bomb went off on the first car and, you know, a lot of my colleagues, civilian and military, were killed,” Garcia said.
The bombing Garcia described actually happened in 2013, after he had left the country, according to the Times Union . Garcia wasn’t at the bombing scene, according to State Department records and interviews with people familiar with the incident, including an eyewitness, the newspaper reported.
In announcing Garcia’s resignation, university officials said the “allegations are contradictory to Upstate’s shared values of being open and honest.” The school had declined requests for comment from him.
Garcia also claimed that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is his close friend and that he was offered a job after an interview with Powell. The newspaper reported he also made other questionable claims about his work history.
Rice was not immediately available for comment. Powell spokeswoman Peggy Cifrino said in an email that “we do not recall Mr. Garcia’s name, nor a meeting that he says he had with General Powell in June of 2001 when the General was Secretary of State. More importantly, there is no record of a meeting with him on his June 2001 calendar.”
A State Department official told the newspaper that Garcia was employed as a foreign affairs officer from August 2004 through April 2006.
During the lecture last fall, Garcia claimed that he had law degrees from an unidentified university in Oklahoma and that after college he worked for a corporate law firm in Los Angeles. The paper could find no records to confirm those claims and reported that his resume filed with the state does not indicate that he attended or graduated from law school.
Garcia said in the speech that the bombing was a turning point in his life and led to his exit from the State Department.
“No more,” he said. “Too many folks in Afghanistan that I picked up from the battlefield and had to carry.”