Park Superintendent Christine Lehnertz will be temporarily reassigned outside Grand Canyon National Park as the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigates.
Speculation is swirling as federal investigators question employees of Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP). At the heart of the controversy sits Superintendent Christine Lehnertz, who last week was temporarily reassigned “into a position outside of the park while the investigation is conducted,” according to an internal email made public by National Parks Traveler.
No further information has surfaced as to the nature of the investigation. But the move comes just two years after Lehnertz took the helm at Grand Canyon National Park in the wake of several sexual harassment allegations that spanned nearly 15 years.
“We want to make sure we comply with the OIG and give them space to complete their investigation,” GCNP spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo told the Associated Press. “And, in that process, protect the integrity of the investigation and those involved.”
Grand Canyon Superintendent Under Investigation
Trained as an environmental biologist, Lehnertz has worked within the National Park Service for more than a decade. Most recently, she served as superintendent of Golden Gate National Park before replacing Dave Uberuaga in the same role at GCNP. Her appointment as the first female GCNP superintendent, lauded by many familiar with the park’s issues, was a response to the OIG’s scandalous report in 2017.
“Regarding the sexual harassment issues that we’ve learned about, Grand Canyon National Park now has a responsibility to lead the National Park Service in eliminating the factors that have allowed such behaviors,” Lehnertz told St. George News when she stepped in as head of GCNP in 2016. “Staff and managers are already working hard to change the working environment there to ensure that the Grand Canyon is a respectful, inclusive place to work and visit.”
According to National Parks Traveler, the OIG first alerted GCNP employees to the investigation and Lehnertz’s reassignment in an email Friday.
“Once the Office of Inspector General completes its investigation, the National Park Service will determine appropriate next steps, based on the outcome of the OIG’s work,” the email read. Additionally, in the email park officials encouraged park staff to “speak to the OIG investigators on the ground if you have information that you wish to share with them.”
During Lehnertz’s reassignment, two deputy superintendents will oversee the park, according to the AP. Officials have not released a timeline for the investigation.