Zinke fires four senior officials over harassment

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report MORE has fired four senior officials in his department over inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment, he announced in a video Thursday night.

Zinke said in a video posted to the Department of the Interior’s website that he had let them go over "inappropriate behavior."


“It’s time to acknowledge that we have a problem,” he said in the video.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told ABC News that the officials who were fired "abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment."

Zinke made the announcement in a video about a survey about harassment and discrimination in the department, in which 35 percent of Interior employees said they were harassed or discriminated against in the last year.

"I've already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior and I will remove 400 more if necessary,” Zinke said.

“Intimidation, harassment and discrimination is a cancer to any organization. However deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior.”

The new survey came after a National Park Service-specific study in October found that 38 percent of that agency’s employees have been harassed or discriminated against.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt placed blame on the Obama administration for not addressing the issue beforehand.

“The previous administration failed to aggressively address these problems and it shows,” he said in a statement. “The culture across the department will change.”

Each bureau has been instructed to submit plans in response to the results within 45 days, according to the department.

Interior is also training employees on how to investigate the allegations and adding new resources on the topic to internal department websites, officials said.