In the latest in a series of workplace misconduct incidents at the National Park Service, two officials were hit with negative publicity on Monday, both involving harassing behavior toward colleagues and one involving financial improprieties.
Acting chief and Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith apologized in an email to his staff on Friday, The Washington Post reported, after an inspector general confirmed an allegation that while telling a story to an audience at Interior Department headquarters, he had “grabbed his crotch and his penis and acted out as though he was urinating on the wall.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in March had forwarded the watchdog a complaint about the behavior from an anonymous witness. The IG report has yet to be released.
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The report the watchdog did release on Monday involved varied allegations against James Milestone, NPS superintendent of California’s Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. The IG investigated allegations last August from colleagues who were concerned about low marks in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
They alleged that Milestone “solicited donations and inappropriately collected funds for the park partner organization Friends of Whiskeytown,” that he assigned park employees to work on the Friends’ group projects while on duty, misused maintenance project funds, disregarded compliance rules and other requirements for a trail project, engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and misused a government-owned vehicle.
“We substantiated the allegations that Milestone routinely violated federal regulations and NPS policies and found that he demonstrated questionable leadership practices,” the IG wrote.
Milestone denied that he had broken any rules. But he “admitted that he had solicited and collected donations for the FOW and asked his subordinates and a park concessionaire to do the same,” the investigators found. He violated ethics regulations by offering the services of his employees and lodging accommodations to the FOW for fundraising events. He improperly redirected funding for a proposed trail project and “communicated unprofessionally with his staff, including making inappropriate gender-based remarks,” the report said. Finally, he “routinely misused a government-owned vehicle” and “demonstrated a lack of candor when he denied the misuse.”
The misuse of the vehicle involved providing rides to family members whom, Milestone said, were volunteers at the park site. The improperly diverted funds were restricted for trail maintenance, but he used them for his own priority, a violation of departmental policy, the IG found.
The offending language he was accused of included “condescending references regarding female employees’ uniform appearance but not that of male employees; a derogatory remark about a female employee’s haircut during a meeting; a remark during a management team meeting cautioning a female employee who was going through a divorce not to turn into ‘one of those old maids that never have children;’ a statement during a hiring board that he did not need another ‘strong-willed woman’ on the team; references to overweight employees not looking good in their uniforms; a comment saying a female employee should sit up straight because he liked when women sit up straight (gesturing to the employee’s chest); a comment to a female employee that she should go look at some recent graffiti vandalism—numerous paintings of penises—because she would like it;” and the routine telling of the story of a 2006 rape and murder near the site as a safety precaution.
The IG sent the report for action by Deputy Director Smith.