In August, days after Tony Tooke was announced as the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service but before it became official, a retired senior Forest Service employee sent a letter of concern to a congressional committee alleging that Tooke maintained a sexual relationship for two years with a young subordinate and then promoted her up through the ranks. The letter also alleged intimidation, saying that after Tooke was told to cease communication with the young woman, he contacted her to say if she talked more about the affair, her career “would go down.” That account was confirmed by the subordinate’s supervisor.
“The sexual misconduct, alone is troubling enough,” the retired employee wrote. “Mr. Tooke’s immediate actions and nature of contact with the employee afterwards are even more disturbing.”
Seven months later, the Forest Service said the USDA, its parent agency, had engaged an independent investigator to look into complaints about Tooke’s behavior. Tooke announced he would step down in an email to staff Wednesday evening, days after a PBS NewsHour investigation into sexual harassment and retaliation in the Forest Service. The USDA did not respond to request for comment about whether that investigation would continue after his resignation.
On Thursday, the USDA released a report that said the Forest Service needs to improve its process of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment and other misconduct.
William Brangham joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest developments in this story.