O’Halleran Calls for Investigation into Sexual Misconduct within the U.S. Forest Service

WASHINGTON, DC – Following yesterday’s resignation of U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke amid an investigation of sexual misconduct, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) called on House Agriculture Committee leaders to hold a hearing to investigate claims made against Tooke and others within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Yesterday’s resignation of the Chief of the Forest Service indicates that we need to address this matter in a serious and timely fashion,” O’Halleran wrote to Chairman Michael Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson. “I am deeply troubled that Tony Tooke was brought into a position of leadership, despite ongoing conversations about the need to investigate his alleged sexual misconduct at the agency.”

Prior to being tapped to lead the U.S. Forest Service, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle raised concerns about allegations against Tooke to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. In addition to the investigation into Tooke’s misconduct, the agency is investigating more harassment claims.

“It is critical for the safety of Forest Service employees that we investigate the culture of the department which has allowed employees to believe that harassment and retaliation are acceptable behavior,” continued O’Hallern in his letter. “I believe we have an obligation to address this behavior and prevent it from ever happening again.”

Rep. O’Halleran serves as a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, and he is a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence.

Read the full letter here and below.

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Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson,

I write to request that the House Committee on Agriculture hold a hearing to discuss the crisis of sexual harassment and retaliation in the Forest Service and United States Department of Agriculture more generally. Yesterday's resignation of the Chief of the Forest Service indicates that we need to address this matter in a serious and timely fashion. I am deeply troubled that Tony Tooke was brought into a position of leadership, despite ongoing conversations about the need to investigate his alleged sexual misconduct at the agency. Any of these types of allegations within any federal agency should be addressed seriously and quickly.

It is critical for the safety of Forest Service employees that we investigate the culture of the department which has allowed employees to believe that harassment and retaliation are acceptable behavior. It is entirely unacceptable for supervisors to feel they can act inappropriately toward subordinates and fellow employees, and no one should face retaliation for reporting such behavior. I believe we have an obligation to address this behavior and prevent it from ever happening again.

I request that the committee begin planning a hearing on this topic and hold it as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Tom O'Halleran

Member of Congress