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Head Of Yosemite Park Steps Down In Wake Of Hostile Work Environment Claims

One week after a House panel highlighted sexual harassment claims at Yosemite National Park and elsewhere in the National Park Service, the superintendent of Yosemite, Don Neubacher is stepping down, the agency says.

According to NPS regional spokesman Andrew Munoz, the agency "acted to move Don Neubacher from his role" leading the park to protect the integrity of its investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment at Yosemite.

"On Sept. 29, the National Park Service accepted Don Neubacher's resignation, effective Nov. 1, 2016," Munoz says. "The investigation is ongoing and there are not yet any findings or conclusions relating to the allegations."

Early this week, Neubacher issued an apology to Yosemite employees whom he might have offended, as the McClatchy news outlet noted.

As it announces Neubacher's exit, the National Park Service is "taking a comprehensive approach to address and prevent sexual harassment and hostile work environments," Munoz says.

Specifically, Munoz says, the agency is trying to promote a culture that "does not accept discrimination, harassment, or retaliation" — three things that Kelly Martin, a current employee of Yosemite National Park and a 32-year veteran of the National Park Service, mentioned in her testimony to members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week.

Martin said, "In Yosemite National Park today, dozens of people, the majority of whom are women, are being bullied, belittled, disenfranchised and marginalized from their roles as dedicated professionals."

Her testimony includes personal examples that illustrate those claims, along with the dates they occurred.

Neubacher has supervised Yosemite since 2010, but charges of sexual harassment and hostile work environments within the National Park Service system aren't confined to that park.

Two years ago, a group of 13 current and former employees wrote a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that requested "a formal investigation of civil rights violations occurring against women" working at the Grand Canyon, as one co-author of that letter told the House panel last week.

In addition to the House hearing and other scrutiny, the allegations are also being examined by the Department of the Interior's Office of the Inspector General.

But that situation also presents a problem, Martin told the House panel last week: "The sad irony of these current investigations is the expedited inquiry and the OIG investigations and subsequent reports were all conducted by men. This has not gone unnoticed in a situation where women have been most affected by a hostile work environment."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.