Florida national parks may be breeding ground for sexual harassment

DeSoto National Memorial
DeSoto National Memorial
Published Aug. 4, 2017

The national parks in Florida are a major draw for tourists who want to watch birds, view wildlife and camp under the stars. They are also, apparently, a major hotbed for sexual harassment, a problem that has been plaguing the service as a whole in recent years.

The Washington Post reported today that the supervisor of the De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, after being cited for sexually harassing his staff, got a bonus and a promotion. This despite the fact that an investigation found that he had made unwanted advances to a woman he supervised -- hugs, lingering handshakes, inappropriate comments about her appearance, and sitting or lying on her desk as she tried to work.

Earlier this year, the superintendent of Canaveral National Seashore was charged with battery for trying to kiss a subordinate at the park. after an investigation substantiated allegations that he had sexually harassed three female employees. This wasn't the first time he'd faced such accusations, which he blamed on "cultural misunderstandings."

A Post story last year called Canaveral "Exhibit A:" for the park service's growing problems with sexual harassment, explaining, "The culture here became so toxic that the agency's watchdog has conducted four investigations since 2012, an unusually high number for one of the park system's smaller sites."

The chief ranger, who was earning $82,000, is no longer working for the park service, and in June resolved his criminal case by agreeing to perform 50 hours of community service and to write a letter apologizing to the victim. If he keeps his nose clean for a year, the charge will be dismissed.

Today's Post report notes that just two months ago, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a Senate committee that he would have "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment in the Park Service.