Forest Service Chief Retires Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke announced his retirement effective immediately on Wednesday, amid a sexual misconduct investigation against him.

“Many of you have seen the news reports which included the stories from women who told of their experiences with sexual harassment in the Forest Service. I admire their courage,” Tooke wrote in an email sent to Forest Service employees.

A two-part report by PBS NewsHour last week exposed a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct, with numerous female employees speaking out about conditions at Forest Service. Three women claimed they had been raped by colleagues in the organization.

The report prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) into misconduct allegations against Tooke himself.

“In some of these news reports, you may have seen references to my own behavior in the past. This naturally raised questions about my record and prompted an investigation, which I requested and fully support, and with which I have cooperated,” Tooke said of the USDA inquiry.

He added: “What I can control, however, are decisions I make today and the choice of a path for the future that is best for our employees, the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I must also think about what is best for my family. Therefore, I have decided that what is needed right now is for me to step down as Forest Service Chief and make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency.”

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SOURCE: Newsweek, Christina Zhao