U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke resigned Wednesday after reports revealed the Department of Agriculture was investigating Tooke for alleged sexual harassment and misconduct, Politico reported.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appointed Tooke to head the forest service agency in August. Tooke announced his resignation in an email to staff.
“We are in a moment at the Forest Service when we have a tremendous opportunity to mold a bright and successful future in delivering our mission,” Tooke wrote in the email, obtained by Politico. “To seize this moment, however, the right leadership must be in place to create an atmosphere in which employees can perform their very best work.”
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The former forest chief’s moral leadership was compromised by questionable behavior that led to a review into his past conduct and inaccuracies in recent news reports, Tooke claimed.
Each employee deserves a leader who can maintain the proper moral authority to steer the Forest Service along this important and challenging course.
“I have been forthright during the review, but I cannot combat every inaccuracy that is reported in the news media,” Tooke wrote. “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 … My retirement will be effective immediately.”
The Forest Service has a widespread culture of sexual harassment and retaliation. A Congressional hearing was held in 2016 to address such instances in California. A committee found sexual assault and harassment and retaliation against employees who reported it had increased since 2008.
In an investigation released March 1, PBS NewsHour spoke to 34 current and former Forest Service employees that said the culture still persists two years after the hearing. It is prevalent in many states outside of California, according to the report.
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