Grand Canyon Park Superintendent Cleared Of Workplace Harassment Allegations Park Superintendent Christine Lehnertz has been cleared of allegations of creating a hostile work environment in a report by the Inspector General of the Interior Department.
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'Unfounded' Bullying Accusations Sidelined Head Of Grand Canyon For 5 Months

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'Unfounded' Bullying Accusations Sidelined Head Of Grand Canyon For 5 Months

'Unfounded' Bullying Accusations Sidelined Head Of Grand Canyon For 5 Months

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The head of Grand Canyon National Park did not create a hostile work environment for her employees. That's the conclusion of a months-long investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general. Nate Hegyi of member station KUER in Salt Lake City has more.

NATE HEGYI, BYLINE: The original complaint came from a senior official at Grand Canyon National Park. It said that park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz created a hostile work environment there. She was accused of bullying male leaders at one of the country's most popular national parks. The complaint came after Lehnertz proposed suspending that senior official for a day because he missed a meeting and didn't file reports. The inspector general found the suspension reasonable. And the investigation has cleared Lehnertz of wrongdoing, saying there was no evidence bullying happened and the claims were unfounded. Lehnertz's former colleague at Grand Canyon, Martha Hahn, ran the science division there. She was not only surprised by the allegations...

MARTHA HAHN: I was angered.

HEGYI: Angered because Lehnertz was brought in to stop harassment at Grand Canyon after stories of abuse there made national headlines a few years ago.

HAHN: And there's no way she could be culpable in something like that.

HEGYI: Multiple former and current park employees interviewed for this story agreed. They say Lehnertz is doing a great job cleaning house and stopping the cycles of harassment and discrimination at the park. But they do say she's a tough manager. John Dillon heard some supervisors complain firsthand. He represents river rafting companies in the area. He doesn't work for Grand Canyon, but he works with employees there.

JOHN DILLON: They're going to be slow to tell you or not tell you that as bluntly, but I think that that's the concern - is I have, you know, another 10 years, and I don't want to say something wrong or do something wrong or end up in the crosshairs of somebody who's on an - you know, a mission to clean house.

HEGYI: It's unclear whether this atmosphere spurred the senior official to file his hostile work environment complaint against Lehnertz. Still, when the investigation was launched in October, the National Park Service quickly and controversially removed Lehnertz from her job running Grand Canyon. The agency says it reassigned her to protect the integrity of the investigation. Jon Jarvis was the National Park Service director under the Obama administration. He hired Chris Lehnertz to run Grand Canyon and address sexual harassment there. He says removing a park superintendent like this is rare, and he thinks the agency overreacted.

JON JARVIS: I would've thought this seems a little odd to me that a subordinate was claiming harassment by Chris Lehnertz, and I would've wanted to better understand the situation before I took that kind of action to move her out of the job.

HEGYI: The Park Service declined to comment on the inspector general's report, calling it a personnel matter. The agency did not make Chris Lehnertz available for an interview, but said in a statement she's a talented, dedicated and respectful executive. The agency wouldn't say when Lehnertz is returning to Grand Canyon. The park turned a hundred years old last week, and Lehnertz wasn't there to celebrate. For NPR News, I'm Nate Hegyi in Salt Lake City.

CORNISH: And this story came from the Mountain West News Bureau, a public media collaboration in the Rocky Mountain states.

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