Examining Misconduct and Mismanagement at the National Park Service
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL REYNOLDS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM, ON THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE RESPONSE TO INCIDENTS OF EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT.
September 22, 2016
Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to update the committee on steps that the National Park Service (NPS) has taken to address the specific sexual harassment cases at the Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore, as well as the broader issue of harassment in the workplace.
The sexual harassment cases at the Grand Canyon and Canaveral were more than a wake-up call for the National Park Service. They presented us with clear and undeniable evidence that, as we begin our second century of service, we must extend the same commitment to the employees of the National Park Service as we make to the protection of our nation’s most extraordinary places.
On behalf of the senior leadership of the National Park Service and the majority of our 20,000-plus employees who are outstanding public servants, I share your abhorrence with the behavior that the Inspector General outlined in its reports on the River District of Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore.
In response to those situations, the leadership team at the National Park Service has committed to making substantial and long-term culture changes at the agency to prevent sexual harassment and to ensure that every employee has a safe and respectful work environment.
This kind of change is neither easy nor fast. We will need to develop trust and support among our employees, visitors, and Congress to make the changes that are undeniably necessary. Every employee in the NPS workforce plays a role in making the NPS a safe place to work. This hearing today is one step in that journey.
Prior to becoming Deputy Director in July, I worked in various parks and regional offices throughout my 30-year career with the National Park Service. As Regional Director for the Midwest Region, and more recently as Associate Director for Workforce and Inclusion, I strove to instill accountability and to address issues of unethical conduct or poor performance. As the new Deputy Director, I am personally committed to bringing a culture of transparency, respect and accountability back to the National Park Service and to making it a safe place for employees to work. We want to become a model agency.
I will start by outlining the specific actions we have taken at the Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore since Director Jarvis testified here in June. Then I will outline the NPS-wide roadmap to address sexual harassment and create a safer and more respectful work environment for all our employees and our larger workforce.
Since the June 14 hearing, the NPS has taken the following actions related to the incidents at the Grand Canyon:
Since the June 14 hearing the NPS has taken the following actions in response to the incident at Cape Canaveral:
NPS policy directs all employees to report harassment when he or she sees it, and every employee is protected by law as an investigation unfolds. As we become aware of allegations of sexual harassment and hostile work environments, we must act quickly and consistently to protect employees and use each investigation to further inform efforts to prevent harassment.
The following are efforts, taken in partnership with Department of Interior (DOI), to fulfill Director Jarvis’ directive to eradicate sexual harassment and to change the culture in the NPS:
The efforts undertaken in response to recent reports are insufficient unless we commit to a long-term plan to fundamentally change the culture of the National Park Service. As noted in the June 2016 Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace by EEOC, culture change begins with leadership commitment and accountability and is sustained through ongoing training, education, and employee engagement. In the last two years, we have stood up a series of employee resource groups--voluntary, employee-led affinity groups that connect like-minded individuals and foster peer support, mentoring and information-sharing. A newly formed women’s employee resource group has been instrumental in providing guidance and recommendations to ensure that our efforts meet the needs of our 9,000+ female employees.
The National Park Service leadership, in its centennial year, has re-focused on what we want the service to look like in its second century. We are committed to a process that is transparent and informed by the best practices of other government agencies and private industries that have faced similar crises. After the survey is completed, we will share the results publicly and with Congress. As we refine our response roadmap, we will share the steps we are taking – and the results of those efforts – as well. Transparency and accountability are the greatest tools we have to ensure that we continue to make the improvements that our employees want and deserve.
Thank you again for inviting me to testify before you today. I am happy to answer any questions that the committee may have at this time.