ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
71°
Sct Thunderstorms
H 88° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    71°
    Current Conditions
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 88° L 70°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    84°
    Evening
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 88° L 70°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    74°
    Morning
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 95° L 74°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

Interim Forest Service chief named amid misconduct charges

President Donald Trump's administration moved quickly Thursday to install a female wildland firefighter to lead the U.S. Forest Service after the agency's former chief stepped down amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The appointment of Vickie Christiansen as interim chief came as lawmakers from both parties called for more aggressive efforts to combat a culture of harassment and retaliation within the Forest Service. The problems mirror recent misconduct within the nation's other major public lands agency, the Interior Department.

Christiansen has been with the Forest Service for seven years and became a deputy chief in 2016. Before joining the federal government she'd worked in forestry for 30 years at the state level, in Arizona and Washington.

She did not return an emailed message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in an email to the Forest Service's approximately 35,000 employees that it had been "a difficult week," punctuated by Wednesday's abrupt retirement of Tony Tooke.

Tooke's departure came just days after PBS NewsHour reported he was under investigation following relationships with subordinates prior to his appointment last August.

The leadership changes at the agency were first reported by The Missoulian.

Abby Bolt, a Forest Service employee in California with a pending sexual discrimination complaint against her male supervisors, told The Associated Press that rumors of Tooke's relationships had started circulating within the agency as soon as he was appointed.

Bolt, a fire battalion chief now on leave, said she was hopeful Christiansen would bring some "fresh eyes" to the Forest Service's problems, but also wants Tooke held to account for any wrongdoing.

"If we just have somebody retire and step down, then we don't get to see that," Bolt said.

Preliminary results of a sexual harassment audit released Thursday by the Agriculture Department's inspector general said that almost half of employees interviewed had expressed distrust in the process of reporting complaints.

Perdue said more steps already were being taken to protect victims from retaliation. Those include using outside investigators for at least the next year to investigate sexual misconduct complaints, according an Agriculture Department inspector general's audit released Thursday.

Representatives of the Forest Service and its parent agency, the Department of Agriculture, did not answer repeated questions Thursday about whether the investigation into Tooke would continue. They also declined to answer if an outside investigator was handling the case.

Tooke said in a final note to employees that the agency deserved a leader with "moral authority" as it addresses reports of rampant misconduct and bullying of female employees. He did not directly deny the allegations against him but said he "cannot combat every inaccuracy that is reported."

Lawmakers expressed outrage over the events and called for a hearing and investigation.

"I plan to use every tool to ensure all bad actors are held accountable," said Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who chairs the Senate agriculture subcommittee that oversees the Forest Service. He said he'll hold a hearing on sexual harassment in the agency.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, a Democrat and leading voice in Congress against sex harassment, said a wide investigation was needed of into the Forest Service's "toxic culture" by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Forest Service has about 35,000 employees and manages more than 300,000 square miles (777,000 square kilometers) of forests and grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico.

Lawmakers in Congress held hearings on sex harassment at agencies in 2016. Senior officials have repeatedly vowed to address the problem, both during the administration of former President Barack Obama and more recently under President Donald Trump.

Tooke, a native of Alabama who joined the Forest Service at the age of 18, had worked in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Prior to becoming chief he served as regional forester for the southern U.S.

In announcing his appointment in August, Perdue cited Tooke's knowledge of forestry and his dedication to the "noble cause" of being a steward of public forests.

"Tony has been preparing for this role his whole life," Perdue said at the time. "His transition into leadership will be seamless."

___

Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at www.twitter.com/matthewbrownap .

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • As Republicans struggled again to gather a majority in the House this week for an immigration reform bill, President Donald Trump on Sunday seemed to hint that the effort might be a waste of time, blaming Democrats for their opposition to GOP plans, and demanding major changes in how the U.S. legal system deals with those illegally entering the United States. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” the President tweeted on Sunday, making the argument that illegal immigrants deserve no legal standing in court, no due process after being detained. But the U.S. Supreme Court has held the opposite, ruling in a 1982 case that “illegal aliens…may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'” “Summarily removing individuals with no opportunity for a hearing, even if they might have viable legal objections to their removal, would likely violate due process,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School. That idea was one of a number of tweets this weekend on immigration from the President: We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents… — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018 It’s very sad that Nancy Pelosi and her sidekick, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, want to protect illegal immigrants far more than the citizens of our country. The United States cannot stand for this. We wants safety and security at our borders! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2018 House Republicans could easily pass a Bill on Strong Border Security but remember, it still has to pass in the Senate, and for that we need 10 Democrat votes, and all they do is RESIST. They want Open Borders and don’t care about Crime! Need more Republicans to WIN in November! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018 Mr. Trump’s comments came as House Republicans were still preparing a vote this week on a backup immigration reform bill – but no date for the vote had been set, as GOP leaders have struggled to corral a majority on the issue. In Congress, Mr. Trump’s idea to deny due process rights to illegal aliens landed with a big thud in both parties. “Removing due process from immigration cases is yet another example of Trump’s extreme immigration policy and disregard for the rule of law,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), quoting the text of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. “Due process is a bedrock American legal principle,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). Democrats spent much of the weekend trying to focus more attention on the effort to reunite children of illegal immigrant families, who were separated from their parents under a Trump Administration effort to deter illegal immigrants from trying to cross the U.S. southern border. 'Enough is enough.' We must continue to protest, to speak out, and keep working until all families are reunited who have been torn apart by Trump's heartless immigration policies. pic.twitter.com/J3qlrVveHA — Mike Capuano (@mikecapuano) June 24, 2018 @RepTedDeutch speaking against Trump Administration immigration family separation policy. @CBSMiami pic.twitter.com/VSpodc1f9W — Carey (@ccoddcbs4news) June 24, 2018 But others on Capitol Hill saw the current immigration debate in much a different light. “America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a strong backer of the President’s calls for tough action on illegal immigration, referring to John Brown’s raid in 1859, in a bid to start a slave revolt. “After that comes Ft. Sumter,” King said in a tweet, referring to the first shots of the Civil War.  
  • A male pedestrian was hit and killed Saturday night while crossing the street in Tulsa. An officer at the scene tells KRMG the auto-pedestrian collision happened around 11:10 p.m. in the westbound lanes of 71st Street near Trenton Avenue. “A black truck comes through and strikes him,” the officer said.  “Then continues on westbound and we were not able to get a good description of the vehicle.” The pedestrian was transported to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead.  As of early Sunday morning, the victim hasn't been identified. KRMG’s told the scene was closed to traffic until around 2 a.m. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.  
  • A 37-year-old Broken Arrow man faces a long list of sexual-related charges in connection with having an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.  Court records show Larado Smith was charged on Friday with 12 counts of second-degree rape and three counts of forcible sodomy.  Tulsa World reports the sexual acts apparently happened at the girl's home when her parents were not home.  When police found out about what was going on, a sting was set up. They posed as the girl over social media.    Smith showed up at the teenager's home and was arrested.  He has been booked into the Tulsa County Jail.  
  • As President Donald Trump this week threatened $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, and then warned Europe that he would slap a 20 percent tariff on imported automobiles, members of both parties Congress accused the administration of starting a trade war which could cause collateral economic damage across the United States. The differences were on display at a hearing Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took a bipartisan tongue lashing on a recent round of tariffs levied on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe. “We’re picking winners and losers,” argued Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said those tariffs were already hurting businesses in his home state. “Probably resulting – in my view – in far more jobs being lost than being gained,” Toomey told Ross, citing a very well-known Pennsylvania company that could find it less expensive to move jobs from the U.S. to Canada. Sen. @PatToomey tells Ross that $KHZ moved some @HeinzKetchup_US manufacturing to Pennsylvania from Canada – but could move back now that Canada plans to tax American ketchup as retaliation for steel and aluminum tariffs. — Kayla Tausche (@kaylatausche) June 20, 2018 Almost every Senator on the panel had a story of a small business that was feeling the pinch due to Trump Administration tariffs, impacting all sorts of agricultural products, as well as manufacturing, big and small. “Do you think we’re in a trade war right now?” asked Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Because I do,” as Cantwell rattled off farm products that were losing markets because of retaliatory tariff measures. Ross downplayed the cost of higher imported steel and aluminum, basically making the case that economic hardships were being overplayed. “It’s a fraction of a penny on a can of Campbell’s soup, it’s a fraction on a can of Budweiser, it’s a fraction on a can of Coke,” Ross said. That did not please the Senator from the state of Coca-Cola. “Although a couple of pennies on a can is not much, a couple pennies times a billion is lots,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). “We’re hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), warning the Trump Administration against tariffs on imported automobiles, as GOP Senators labeled such actions a tax on consumers. “Steel prices are going up – not just for foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also for U.S. steel,” complained Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “Mexico’s buying their wheat from Argentina and their corn from Brazil,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), as he told Ross that Kansas wheat exports were encountering troubles because of new retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, bringing bad economic news on the farm report. Ross simply told Senators if other countries put new tariffs on U.S. exports, that was out of his control. “We have no control over what another country does in retaliation,” Ross said. The bipartisan complaints clearly had no impact, as by Friday, President Trump was on Twitter, issuing new threats against European auto imports. Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. & its great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2018 As Democrats registered their opposition, they also couldn’t help but note the oddity of a Republican President going against what’s been a bedrock belief of the GOP. “I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who said she found it hard to believe the party of free trade now had a President in office who was doing the exact opposite. “In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers,” McCaskill told Ross. But for the President, this is about re-setting trade deals, which he says were tilted against the United States. #President #Trump #speaking in #Duluth, #Minnesota: We want fair & reciprocal #trade not stupid trade that we've had for years. We've been ripped off by all of our friends. And frankly the do a much better job than our enemies. #MAGA #economy #POTUS #TrumpTrain — Leanne Howard Kenney (@neeneebucket) June 21, 2018 “As far as trade is concerned with other countries, we want fair and reciprocal trade, we don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” the President said at a rally in Minnesota. “Remember the world reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been ripped off by almost every country on Earth, our friends and our enemies.” “But those days are over,” the President said to cheers from the crowd. But while they’re cheering Mr. Trump on the stump, at the U.S. Capitol, they’re worried about a trade war. “We’re getting into a war that’s going to cost lots of billions of dollars,” Isakson warned.
  • There was a big setback for the group challenging the tax hikes to pay for teacher pay raises on Friday. The Oklahoma Supreme Court said the petition from Oklahoma Taxpayers United is invalid. Oklahoma's highest court handed down the ruling Friday morning and ordered that the initiative not appear on an election ballot. Justices said the wording of the petition is misleading and those who sign it don't know what they would vote on. The Legislature earlier this year voted to hike taxes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production.