Energy & Environment

Park Service boss apologizes to staff for ‘inappropriate’ behavior


The top-ranking official at the National Park Service (NPS) apologized to the agency’s employees Friday for behaving “in an inappropriate manner in a public hallway” earlier this year.

P. Daniel Smith, who Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke named to the post in January, apologized both to employees who witnessed the behavior and the rest of the staff in an email obtained by The Hill.

“As a leader, I must hold myself to the highest standard of behavior in the workplace,” Smith wrote in the staff-wide email, which was sent on Friday afternoon.


“I take my responsibility to create and maintain a respectful, collegial work environment very seriously. Moving forward, I promise to do better.”

An employee anonymously complained to Zinke that he or she witnessed Smith grabbing his own genitalia in a hallway at the Interior headquarters in January, the Washington Post reported in March.

The complaint said Smith “grabbed his crotch and his penis and acted out as though he was urinating on the wall.” The Post said It wasn’t clear to the employee whether or not he intended the gesture to be sexual.

Zinke’s office referred the matter to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which took it up.

Smith said in his email that the OIG completed its investigation, but he did not say the outcome of it.

“I was overheard recounting an experience in Alaska while having a hallway conversation in the [NPS headquarters] offices,” he told employees.

“I hope that my mistake and this apology are a lesson for leaders and employees at every level of the National Park Service. Workplace culture is our shared responsibility. We must conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects the great pride we all have for the extraordinary parks and programs we represent,” Smith continued.

NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum said Smith’s email “speaks for itself” and declined to comment further on the matter.

OIG spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo confirmed that the office completed its investigation this week and would release the results around the end of June.

The incident came as the Park Service is on a years-long mission to crack down on rampant sexual harassment and assault among its ranks, particularly in remote areas like Grand Canyon National Park.

A survey released last year found 38 percent of NPS employees had experienced sexual harassment or another form of discrimination.

Zinke has made it a priority to stop sexual misconduct.

“I’ve already fired a number of predators who other administrations were too afraid to remove or just turned a blind eye to,” he said in releasing the survey.

“Under my leadership we don’t protect predators. When I say ‘zero tolerance’ I mean that these people will be held accountable for their abhorrent actions.”

Zinke named Smith acting director of the NPS in January. Although his actual title is deputy director,  he is carrying out many of the duties of the acting director.

Smith has worked in the NPS for years, including as superintendent of Virginia’s Colonial National Historical Park. He retired in 2014 and returned to the agency for his current job.

A previous OIG report found that Smith, while working as an aide to then-NPS chief Fran Mainella under the George W. Bush administration in 2004, improperly pressured NPS employees to approve a request by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to cut down trees that blocked his Maryland mansion’s view of the Potomac River.

Tags National Park Service Ryan Zinke

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