WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. Forest Service has resigned amid reports that the agency was looking into misconduct allegations against him, Politico reported Wednesday.
According to Politico, Tony Tooke emailed employees on Wednesday and announced his resignation.
The investigation into misconduct at the agency as a whole comes as the nation is facing a reckoning over sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.
PBS interviewed more than 34 women working for the Forest Service in 13 states, who described a culture of sexual harassment and assault and discrimination by crew members and supervisors. Three women said they were raped. Many who formally reported these episodes said that they were retaliated against, and that investigations were mishandled or significantly delayed.
“I have been forthright during the review, but I cannot combat every inaccuracy that is reported in the news media,” Tooke said of the USDA investigation, according to Politico. “What I can control, however, are decisions I make today and the choice of a path for the future that is best for our employees, the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I must also think about what is best for my family.”
Congress has previously looked into harassment within the ranks of the US Department of Agriculture, of which the Forest Service is a part.
Tooke’s time as Forest Service chief began only recently, under President Donald Trump’s tenure. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tapped Tooke to lead the agency in August 2017, but according to a news release from the time of the announcement, Tooke had worked for the Forest Service since he was a teenager.
Politico reported that Perdue accepted Tooke’s resignation Wednesday.
“In my experience, in order to effectively lead any organization, you must have the moral authority to inspire its members to work toward the goal of continuous improvement,” Perdue said in a statement, according to Politico. “Chief Tooke has determined that it is best for the Forest Service, its future and its employees that he step aside. I thank him for his decades of service to this nation and to the conservation of its natural resources.”