After just six months helming the U.S. Forest Service, chief Tony Tooke announced his immediate retirement Wednesday amid an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, PBS NewsHour reports.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week it “engaged an independent investigator” to look into complaints about Tooke following a NewsHour investigation into the agency’s allegedly pervasive culture of sexual harassment and past retaliations against those who tried to report misconduct. The investigation also reported that Tooke had relationships with subordinates before he became chief in September.
In announcing his retirement from a nearly four-decade career at the Forest Service, Tooke said he had to prioritize what was best for the agency, and for his family, according to PBS.
“I have decided that what is needed right now is for me to step down as Forest Service Chief and make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency,” he said.
In response to the reports of misconduct, the agency reportedly told employees the stories shared with PBS were “important to hear, difficult and heart-wrenching as they may be.”
“These are critical issues that the Forest Service must continue to take on to increase our efforts to protect our fellow employees so they know they can speak up and speak out, without any fear of retaliation or reprisal,” the email to employees said.