March 8, 2018 / 2:00 AM / in 17 days

U.S. Forest Service chief resigns amid sexual misconduct accusations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Forest Service, Tony Tooke, resigned on Wednesday amid an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct made against him.

“I have been forthright during the review, but I cannot combat every inaccuracy that is reported in the news media,” Tooke said in an email to Forest Service staff. He was named chief of the Forest Service last September.

Tooke said he had “decided that what is needed right now is for me to step down as Forest Service Chief and make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency.”

The U.S. Agriculture Department, which includes the Forest Service, is conducting the investigation, which, PBS NewsHour reported, centers on Tooke’s relationship with subordinates before he became chief of the agency.

The Forest Service oversees 154 national forests and 20 grasslands, and has about 28,000 permanent employees.

A PBS NewsHour report last week found widespread complaints from women in the Forest Service of sexual harassment at the agency. In response to the PBS story, Forest Service Associate Chief Dan Jiron said the agency had taken steps to address the issue but “we have more work to do,” PBS reported.

Reporting by Eric Beech

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