Watchdog documents sexual harassment at Grand Canyon park

Watchdog documents sexual harassment at Grand Canyon park
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A group of men working at the Grand Canyon National Park sexually harassed multiple women for years, according to a new watchdog report.

The report, released Tuesday, documented allegations from more than a dozen women going back 15 years, in which four men used weeks-long boating trips on the Colorado River to pressure them to have sex, touch them inappropriately or make sexual comments to them.


The men, who were not identified, were rarely punished for their actions, while the women who accused them were punished for other offenses in ways that they said were retaliatory for coming forward.

Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties House Dems seek to make officials feel the pain Lawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the report is another example of inadequate supervision of federal employees.

“Supervisors and managers are failing in their management responsibilities and they should be removed. The culture of overlooking and even rewarding bad behavior is inexcusable,” he said in a statement. “Congress must enact meaningful reforms to weed out those who can't or won't do their jobs.”

The allegations came to the attention of the inspector general of the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service, when 13 women wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellOvernight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone Blind focus on ‘energy dominance’ may cripple Endangered Species Act MORE in 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in its report.

“We found evidence of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment in the [Grand Canyon National Park] River District,” the investigators said, referring to the unit of the park responsible for patrolling the 280 miles of the Colorado River included in its boundaries, and for organizing the weeks-long river trips for research or other work.

“In addition to the 13 original complainants, we identified 22 other individuals who reported experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment and hostile work environments while working in the River District.”

And although some incidents were reported to superiors, investigators said, they were not properly investigated, violating department policies.

All but one of the employees implicated in the report have left the agency, they added. All the employees denied violating rules.

The report documents a rowdy, frat-like culture on the Colorado River trips that at times featured excessive alcohol, sex and a party that included penis-shaped straws for drinks and twerking.

The culture of the trips was frequently kept secret from the highest officials at the park, let alone others in the Park Service, investigators said.