E&E News on the Tooke Affair

I couldn’t help but notice that this site had a lot of hits to the story about Tony Tooke. Of course, a sex scandal draws a lot of interest :). Some have asked whether it’s an appropriate topic for this blog.. and here is why I think it is. Of course, it’s easy not to read these posts if you prefer, you should be able to tell by the title of the post.

A while back Matthew asked “how do you know things?”- this is a good example of trying to figure that out. First of all: what media carried it? Could they have a political or policy reason? Or even a salacious therefore increased number of clicks reason? (This blog does not have advertising) Who talked about it to the media, what were their motives? Of course, there’s “what really happened and how do we know?” and finally and perhaps most important “what meaning do the stories associate with those facts and how clear are they about the links between facts and interpretation?” We could also investigate “what science has to say about this” in terms of evolutionary biology and older/younger human relationships.

I think that this story would also be interesting to current employees. What are the rules and who follows them or not? If we have a rule about cell phone use while driving (or chock blocks or ….) (I don’t know if this is still a rule), and the “leader” does not follow it- that’s not a good thing because it’s not a good example for others. It could even confuse employees as to whether there was a rule or not. But who is a leader? Everyone with supervisory responsibility, or just line officers, or all of you? My original point in the first post is that based on the information, Tony wasn’t following the rules about “in the chain of command.” Does everyone know these rules? Do only some people get reprimanded for not following them at your unit?

What I like about this E&E story compared to the previous Daily Caller story is that it gets to what I think is the crux of the issue.

“The retiree complained to Isakson’s office that Tooke shouldn’t be in charge of an agency that’s trying to come to terms with a history of sexual harassment — a part of the agency’s past he tried to confront shortly after taking command earlier this year.”

I respectfully disagree with the retiree making that link between consensual breaking of agency rules and being unable to lead a harassment effort. There is a very serious problem with sexual harassment (more on that later) that different administrations have struggled with, including the Clinton administration (’nuff said). I do like the ideas of retirees taking an active role, but once the facts are out, I feel that this should be an open discussion.

Here’s the link to the E&E News (kudos to them for clear and fair reporting). Unfortunately there is a firewall (but if they are paid well and do good work, can I really complain?). They also mention the potential political angle by talking to a forest policy person.
Here’s a snippet.

A Forest Service spokeswoman today referred E&E News to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s office, which didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. The agency told The Daily Caller, “Tony Tooke has a clean personnel record and there is nothing in his employment record reflecting complaints against him of this nature.”

The Daily Caller reported that a USDA lawyer responded to Isakson that the issue had been “properly addressed” at the time of the relationship.

According to the article, the retired employee said that Tooke advocated for the woman with whom he was involved to receive a promotion to a newly created position at the Forest Service, and that he continued to contact her after their relationship ended, and after he’d been directed by a supervisor not to do so.

Tooke moved to the agency’s headquarters and eventually became regional forester for the Southern Region, before taking the chief’s job in Washington.

A lobbyist for a forest policy group that has supported Tooke lamented that the issue could distract from important policies the new chief is trying to pursue, and questioned the motivations of the person who made the complaint.

98 Comments

    • That’s a great question, Andy! Unfortunately, being retired, I don’t have access to all the relevant documents. Anytime between 1979 and 2012 I may have heard it/read it/been at a training session where they said it.
      It’s a rule that makes sense, and when people struck up relationships I think I remember helping people move to other jobs and locations when that became an issue, and being careful to hire people and find jobs for their spouses such that people in relationships did not supervise each other.
      Hopefully employees with better memories can help.

      I did look at the USDA policies here: https://www.ocio.usda.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012/DR4070-735-001%5B1%5D.pdf and couldn’t find anything specific about that, but did find:

      Prohibited Personnel Practices. Every employee who has the authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action (Prohibited Personnel Practices, 5 USC §2302 (b)), is prohibited from:..
      (10) Discriminating based on personal conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee, applicant, or others;

      This sounds like it is a prohibited practice at USDA to discriminate (for personnel actions) based on this personal conduct or someone who wanted to discriminate would have to prove adverse effects on someone’s performance.

  1. It’s worth repeating what’s missing from The Daily Caller and E&E News stories — any evidence of sexual harassment. Without a harassee, there is no harassment.

    Taking the Daily Caller story at face value, here’s what we know. A female retired Southern Regional Forester wrote a letter to Senator Isakson (GA-R) alleging that Tooke had an extra-marital sexual affair with a Forest Service employee he did not supervise directly. She also alleges that Tooke endorsed the woman for a promotion. The letter insinuates that Tooke acted immorally (“extra-marital”) and unethically by endorsing an employee for a promotion she didn’t deserve on the merits of her work.

    The retired regional forester, who was more levels above Tooke than Tooke was above his lover, had access to Tooke’s personnel information, whether in written form or by word-of-mouth from Tooke’s immediate boss, the forest supervisor. Using this personnel-related, privileged information, she blew the whistle on Tooke. She does not allege Tooke sexually harassed anyone. She does not allege that his two-year love affair was anything other than consensual. She does not allege that the female employee was undeserving of a promotion on the merits of her work.

    The real story here is the mis-use of privileged personnel-related information by a retired regional forester. What and/or who motivated her to do so?

    • I don’t know what motivated her, Andy. But I have to confess I did call the Department when they were considering Chief candidates and tell them that I would have to publicly “out” another Chief candidate for unethical behavior (according to written rules). Fortunately the folks in the Department weren’t considering him (whew!). So I can’t argue that using personal information is OK but I can understand the idea of warning about potentially unethical Chiefs. As retirees, we can openly talk about things without fear of reprisal, so those of us who stay involved in retirement can serve a useful function.

  2. Andy’s comments seem to view things only through a legal lens. No documented sexual harassment, no foul. Really? Is this the only standard that applies here?

    Andy seems to suggest that it’s OK for agency leaders, leaders with influence or power over junior employees, to engage in presumably consensual relationships with highly influenceable and perhaps intimidated employees.

    Isn’t the conflict of interest between the workplace and the relationship apparent to you? Fraternization is what the military calls it and it’s not allowed for obvious reasons.

    Ignoring the legal aspects for a brief second, we expect more from our leaders in terms of character, ethical behavior and judgement. And, hasn’t our country been saying the same thing this past year?

    I think we deserve better and expect more of our leaders.

  3. So my read of the article is two fold. 1) System failure. The young lady did report the affair to her Director and according to Forest Service process the Director is compelled to reported the incident to the Forest Supervisor. What should of happen Forest Supervisor is compelled my Forest Service personnel manuals to report this type of Misconduct to Regional Forester. A investigation should have taken place to determine the facts. Once the investigation was concluded Employee Relations would review the facts and offer a opinion. During the time of the investigation the Deputy Forest Supervisor would be probably be reassigned probably to the Regional Office or the Washington Office. Pending the outcome of the investigation. The Forest Supervisor does not have the authority to issue a verbal reprimand (which I have never even heard of). As I recall letter of warning, letter of reprimand with or without time off and/or removal from the supervisor position, or letter of termination. A letter of warning is not a disciplinary action the rest are. The system failed the young lady because I think the Forest Supervisory acted inappropriately and out side of her scope of authority.

    Folks seem to be stuck on “sexual harassment” it’s generally viewed as Supervisory Misconduct and the Forest Service manual does have appropriate recommended disciplinary actions. A verbal reprimand is no one of them.

    The question of Consent. I have removed employees from their Supervisory position, issue letter of reprimand all in accordance of Forest Service Manual for exactly what is stated in the article. Consent didn’t matter, the Forest Service doesn’t condone this type of conduct.

    Whether you agree with with how the Forest Service handles cases like this or not that is how it’s done.

    Chief Tooke got a pass. The Forest Service failed this young lady. That is why his personnel file is clean.

    • Willie- In my experience of the last 40-5 years, I found that this (not having consensual romantic/sexual relationships with people below you in the chain of command) has not been always enforced in all the ranger districts, research labs and such across the country. That is not to excuse the behavior, but I think there is something going on in the organization that is worthy of attention. Intermittent enforcement drives employees crazy (sometimes you get a pellet and sometimes you get a shock) or if you’re good you follow all the rules, if you’re not, only random people are held accountable.

      Maybe a good thing that will come out of this is a taskforce that will clarify policies and accountability procedures.

  4. Sharon -Just because it has been done in the past, does that make it right? “Times They Are a Changing” -there is a new generation and with the MeToo movement, people are just not going to put up with it any longer. The buck has to stop somewhere.

    Tony might just have to take one for the team on this one. Unless, he can prove he is a changed man and has not conducted the same behavior repeatedly over the past 12 years -which I don’t believe he can. The credibility of the Agency is the top priority. If the Chief, who is otherwise a good leader, needs to resign in order to protect that, so be it. Agency first.

    It is a very good thing that the light is being shined on this topic. If Tony were not Chief would this discussion even be taking place? Probably not. Ultimately, I can’t help believe that good will come of this as it will drive the agency to look at our policies, values, accountability, and training to employees -hopefully, challenge our current status quo on this issue and undergo a culture shift.

    • Just thought I’d repost Tony’s invitation from his 5 national priorities: (http://forestpolicypub.com/2017/11/20/chief-tookes-five-national-priorities/)

      “1. Uplifting and empowering our employees through a respectful, safe working environment.
      I have enormous respect and admiration for the work every employee does. I am committed to ensuring our work environment is safe, rewarding, respectful, free of harassment, and resilient—that every one of you works in an environment where you are recognized and valued for your contributions. I want every employee to be empowered to continuously improve our work.

      My questions for you are: What do you see standing in your way? What are you experiencing that we can collectively learn from?”

      (By the way Dale, I liked your Freudian slip “help restore tryst.”)

  5. What I witnessed in 10 years at USFS was incredible compared to my time in forest industry, academe and two non-USDA agencies. Favored district ranger using purchase card inappropriately or SO employee engaged in Tookish behavior? Promote them and move them out rather than discipline them and/or have leadership above admit their supervision was lax. A timber tech stops to pull down his tree-stand 20 yards from the road as he leaves a compartment? Fire him.

    • Bill- the thing about the Forest Service is that every unit is somewhat unique. Some units are like the Sound of Music (without Nazis) and some are like the Lord of the Flies (don’t ask me how I know this), and everything in between. I have had bad experiences of different varieties in academe, but not in another agency (it was tiny and not decentralized).

      If your comments refer to other land management agencies, though, I think it would be worth an interdepartmental ethics review to see if there is something that makes the FS worse, given similarly local offices and similar kinds of work. Another..maybe Interior does it better? and if they do, can the FS adopt their practices or move?

      • I’ve worked for three federal natural resource agencies. One far far worse on sexual harassment and one way way better. There are reasons for culture in FS that lead to a culture of harassment. That culture also has some very strong plusses. Until there is a serious effort to identify what the “drivers” are in the culture I think it will be very difficult and maybe impossible to “root out” the parts of the FS culture that evidently allow this to continue to be a sad reality for the majority of dedicated employees. I’m not sure how to approach an unbiased trusted look at culture since there have been so many. But, it must recognize that those of us who work and/or work for the FS have a deep loyalty to the agency and each other. That is a good thing and must be respected while sorting thru “why after decades of enlightenment” this cancer still ruins lives and detracts from an agency with such dedicated employees. The focus cannot be solely on the cancer and it’s cures but must consider the broader agency culture.

        • Sandra, thanks for your comments. I’d be interested in the previous efforts to get at culture. I’d also be interested in your own experiences across the three agencies and your own ideas for cultural reasons for the differences. Please consider writing a blog post on this! There is so much we can all learn from others’ experiences and you have some that many of us don’t have (holding the mission, decentralized nature and federal government requirements constant, what is different among the agencies?)

  6. I find it interesting in this day and age, that ethics in ones private life is a factor. There is no evidence that there was anything more than a recommendation for an unqualified advancement, and that may be more opinion than fact. I know of many advancements that were given to incapable individuals.
    So what are the ethics? Is an extramarital affair unethical, but a same sex relationship ethical? Is it ethical to promote a candidate based on sex, race, or sexual identity instead of the most qualified individual based on skill, experience, and knowledge? This is a rabbit hole that has been created by today’s PC crowd. If a person is not a supervisor of the person they are in a relationship with and doesn’t possess power over that person, then I think that the whole condemnation is on pretty thin ice. Just because you may not agree with a relationship is no longer grounds to restrict it.

    • Foresster: “So what are the ethics? Is an extramarital affair unethical, but a same sex relationship ethical?
      ===

      Ethics like other words/terms are going through a åeriod again of definition shell games and a fuzzing process. Remember how the legal world got adultery thrown out and it’s now an affair ? Same with the word homosexuality, it became an alternative lifestyle and so forth. Now ethics is becoming grayer and more fuzzy. Science is losing it’s bioethics in the lab all across the planet. But In the show NCIS, the character Ducky (The doctor) gives a great example of what it is to be a moral person when he said, “The ethical man knows it is wrong to cheat on his wife, where as the moral man actually wouldn’t.” I believe ethics like morals is becoming blurred as well.

      • Kevin morals aren’t blurred, which is my point. Ethics seems to be what is accepted by the society that you are in. I’ve always looked at it as morals are my actual actions, ethics are how I say I will act. They should be one in the same, but we see more and more that people feel the right words are more important than the right actions.

        • Exactly, and that was my point. There is however a movement out there to muddle and cloud up through definition shell games what is good and badm right or wrong, moral and immoral. Given this, it explains the motives behind those who push for policies on either side of the deate aisle. In other words, expect things to continue to deteriorate.

  7. That’s just it Forester. Tony was using his power get women he was attracted to promotions. I was about to be one of them. I was way underqualified for a detail working for him for two years. Before it was supposed to turn into something permanent, he made a pass at me.

    He was my mentor, and I looked up to him. When I discovered that the only thing he wanted the whole time was my body, it hurt in a way you can’t possibly imagine and undermined everything he did prior to and after that point. Did I earn the detail? Was it based on merit or my looks? Did I earn that outstanding performance appraisal? Were all my co-workers right for thinking I didn’t belong there and was only there because Tony liked me? My guess is he saw something “on” me not “in” me. The truth is, the answer doesn’t matter, but the question destroyed me for years.

    It effected my performance and self-confidence more than I can express. All I can say is that I get to walk away from the entire experience with the confidence of knowing my body is not for sale. I put my dignity before my career. I let him take a lot away from me, but that’s mine. I get to keep that.

    After all of this, I still believe he is a good leader. How can that be? I guess there is “a little bit of bad in the best of us and a little bit of good in the worst of us”. All I know for sure is I don’t want any other woman to feel the way I have. I want better for women. I want better for Tony Tooke because he has a lot of wonderful qualities. I want better for the Forest Service because I love this Agency. I want better for you. Thus, I will be praying accordingly.

    • Andrea- I hope you really wrote this.. I mean I hope that you are a real person who had this experience. The internet has made me somewhat suspicious but not enough not to address some of what you said.

      As described here, it sounds awful for you and totally wrong, and something that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Ever. Absolutely.

      I know it won’t help now, and it’s inappropriate for me to try to say anything about Tony’s psychology even if I could understand it, which I clearly don’t. I’m really sorry that his behavior caused you to lost confidence in your own skills and abilities. But I tend to think motivations, especially sexual ones, reside in the unconscious and I doubt that “the only thing he wanted the whole time was my body” . I bet he also admired your work and skills and liked you. Some men of the time (and that part of the US) seemed to think “I like work, I like talking about work, I like Gemma, I like how she works, I can teach her stuff and she can share her ideas and gossip about other people at work, hey we could also do this fun other thing…” My point is not that it’s OK for people to do this (which it is NOT) but that people have mixed motives that they themselves may not understand.

      As to getting assignments, some of my employees have accused others of getting assignments because I liked them and I probably did like them. It’s hard not to like people who are good workers, treat their boss and their coworkers and other staffs with respect, follow directions, and don’t complain about the FS or the Department or their coworkers all the time. From your comment, including compassion for Tony, appreciation for his good qualities, and your love of the Agency, I just bet you were a good employee all along.

        • I’m a biologist and that was a natural history observation.
          I have been around southern charming men who are more or less inclined to have fun in that way. One really famous one was President.
          I have seen lynx in Colorado. That is not to say there are not lynx elsewhere. In fact, we know that there are more lynx elsewhere. But I spend more time in Colorado.
          For assumptions across groups of people, we need objective data which is almost impossible to come by, because people who do studies tend not to be objective.
          That’s why I am a fan of sharing observations openly from different perspectives and not making claims about groups of people. IMHO our public dialogue could use a lot more of this.

    • The most interesting thing about “ethics” is that they often are ignored for PC reasons, then put back into the forefront when someone rises to power.
      Is it ethical to promote based on gender, race, religion, or age? The PC crowd has decided that it is unacceptable (unethical) to not promote based on these factors, incases, regardless of highest qualifications.
      The simple solution to the underlying problem in this discussion and many more in the news today, is to quit being tolerant – which in itself in unacceptable. If sexual comments were not tolerated regardless of job classification, or gender there would be fewer people in power who act in this manner. If we only promoted based on skill, knowledge, and experience – shown through testing without special treatment, there would be less need for recommendations and less room for manipulation in any form.
      Unfortunately, we now have all manners of exemptions, extra points, quotas, etc to give those less qualified an “equal” chance. With this “equality” comes pitfalls and we are seeing the results rising to the top, and the ones who may have used it to their advantage being called out. My guess is that in the end political correctness will win out over true ethics and best qualified.

    • Wi know exactly what you mean. I’m guessing I’m way older than you but “somethings don’t change”. I admire your ability to see his other qualities but the damage done to you should not have to happen again.

  8. Life is filled with evil. Even men can be harassed or treated unethically. What matters is what you do after the experience. Andrea seems to be a good example of making the best of a bad situation without destroying herself by insisting on perfection from everyone around her.

    Only one human has been without sin. Mercy and forgiveness are so important because if we all got the justice we deserve we’d all be doomed to …

    This is not a USFS problem anymore than any other business.
    Power changes people mostly for the worse – it’s part of the ongoing test of life.

    I’d rather not see us diverted from discussing the basis for forest policy.
    Sin has been around for a long time. We aren’t going to add any new insights to that subject.

    • Gil DeHuff – “I’d rather not see us diverted from discussing the basis for forest policy.
      Sin has been around for a long time. We aren’t going to add any new insights to that subject.”
      ===

      Welcome to the latest in the new abnormal. We live in a time where what we knew was going on in modern culture in several groups was indeed happening, but now has become thoroughly exposed. Apparently not all are appreciating this exposure and grand standing their point by displaying phony outrage and self-righteous indignation over others who spotlight this because it inconveniences their worldview. So now we have Political circles, Sports stars and Hollywood being called out, but another dirty sector of human culture was also recently exposed, the holier than thou High Tech World. Now Vanity Fair has published a book excerpt by Emily Chang revealing that Silicon Valley is as sexually debauched as Hollywood, the political world, sports industry and the media. Many of these so-called enlightened titans of the tech world, the entrepreneurs, executives, investors, founders of companies apparently are known to regularly host drug-fueled, sex-laced parties. Wow, what a shocker ? Not!

      So now all this social reform which dates back to those open free love 1960s have brought us to a society where hedonistic ethics pervades all public institutions, which also includes Universities who hold sex weeks where porn stars are speakers and sex toy companies display their wares. And none is anyone else’s business or is supposed to matter or effect anyone’s job performance ? What amazes me is that many of these institutionss and their supporters who are being called out are the very ones who give life & funding to many of these environmental groups, but what’s odd is that I’ve never found Nature to be an influencer of raw animal decadent behaviour. So does conduct really matter ? Yeah unfortunately it does and out planet is not a reflection of that decadent behaviour.

      https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/01/brotopia-silicon-valley-secretive-orgiastic-inner-sanctum

      Europe is not much different over here.

      • Kevin

        We are pretty much on the same page except that this is not a new normal. This is the same normal that has existed since the genus homo began. I ought to know, I’ve been around that long.😎

        • Well, that’s why I always now use the expression, “The new abnormal.” I’ve never seen a time period where so much insanity and irresponsible behaviour is suddenly celebrated. Every single nook and cranny of what was once normalcy is being attacked. Over here in Sweden teachers and teachers aids, even is “Dagis” (government sponsored pre-school daycare), they all can be fired from their job for using male/female gender pro-nouns. Sweden has adopted a pro-noun borrowed from Finnish, “hen” which is basically like calling everyone it. So the traditional ‘Hon’ (she/her) and ‘Han’ (he/him/his) is forbidden. I have friends here whose 3 & 4 year old kids come home from government daycare asking their mother or father if they are a boy or girl. These last two years have become the weirdest times I have ever in my life seen and it doesn’t matter which fingerpointing ideology is accusing who, both sides are running neck and neck in the consensus worldview derby and no matter who wins, Nature and Mankind in general still lose anyway.

    • Gil, this will blow over one way or another and we can go back to our usual wonky stuff. I think it’s important for the FS at this time to have a place where some of our logic and analytical skills can delve into internal problems and maybe help by giving people a place to talk about it.

      I understand that this is probably a “bag of snores” for people outside the agency but bear with me for another week or so.

      • Sharon
        This “bag of snores” is a topic of importance across most agencies and private industry at the moment. In my opinion it is another unintended consequence of previous decisions. When we started ignoring qualifications in an effort to be “equal” we also started to turn a blind eye to other actions and behavior as well.

        When I first started in the woods the agency was looked at with almost reverence, in part because that’s where the best foresters went. Employees were presented as clean cut, rarely used foul language and had high integrity, we called them “prim and proper”. The ones that crossed the line were shunned and usually found another home outside the agency. They understood how things worked from the ground up and worked hard.

        Now many on the outside see things completely the opposite, in fact most industry people shy away from applicants that have experience in USFS or BLM because “they want someone who can work for a living”. I can’t count how many times I’ve had meetings with the agency where agency personnel looked liked they had just crawled out of bed and their uniform – if they had one on- hadn’t seen an iron since it was purchased. There have been countless Supervisors and Rangers that are only passing thru on their way to a higher promotion, often with little knowledge of the area they’ve transfered too, and even less about how to get things done, but they can have meetings to plan meetings about which meetings they need to have.

        it’s been a growing problem for 35 years and now that era is in charge. 28 years ago I personally witnessed completely inappropriate behavior by a female employee who simply said “that’s how I’m moving up” and later watched a crew boss get suspended when allegations were made by the same female after she didn’t get her choice of assignments. There was wrong doing on both sides, but after threatening an EEO complaint the female went about her merry way, and eventually retired after making GS 11 and the crew boss was suspended and finally dismissed. That was the final straw that convinced me there were better alternative careers.

        Until there is a clear line drawn there will be more and more of these situations. If you use “ethics” then you are in the rabbit hole of who considers what ok and that usually only lasts as long as it benefits them. The biggest problem is that most people won’t have an honest discussion because it’s not acceptable to say anything not politically correct, even when true. In the end the agency and every qualified person suffers regardless of gender, religion, or race……… or identity, or sexual preference, or national origin, or they felt when they got up this morning…………………….

        • Forester- I, of all people, was not saying that these issues are not important. For folks, including retirees and folks like Andy and future employees it’s really important.

          I was just acknowledging to Gil that many of our blogging community may not be interested in these discussions, but we’re going to have them here for a while.

          Anyway, my first Forest Supervisor in the late 70’s was having an affair with someone else in the building and ultimately got in trouble for flying her around in an FS plane. He told me that it didn’t matter if Regional personnel classified my job as a 12, he would make me a 7 if he wanted to because he was the Supervisor. So we all have different experiences of the “good old days”.

          I would like to ask you and anyone else who wants to.. to share a post of what you think about this… What you would change and how would you change it?

  9. Sharon – I cannot speak to Interior but in industry and DOD, everybody was so busy with “real” goals and targets that had financial or stewardship implications (couldn’t burn TA2 and now the Marines cannot train there or are forced to train 500 miles away at huge costs??? big deal), there was precious little time to do anything but work. Also the FS leadership culture seemed different. Value placed on promotion and moving up, building cadres of loyal underling supporters, leaving messes for the nightshift/next ranger to clean up. Oy vey. I get an ulcer just remembering the Green Team.

  10. Bill… Ha! The R&D Green Team? Thinking you can get me riled up? (Taking deep breaths)

    You raise some interesting questions about leadership and culture. I would be very interested in a post from your perspective (anonymity is fine, we’re all about ideas here). Maybe the top three worst things based on your experiences elsewhere and how you think they could be changed?

  11. Wow, this is the third thread on the blog to address this issue, and none of them are coming into my inbox, so I’m commenting on all the ones I can see. I am not as brave as Andrea to identify myself by name, but I applaud her frankness. I’m only copying a portion of what I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog. The story is true, and there is even more to it, but I want to keep the focus on the current Chief and no one else. He is and was the Deciding Official in personnel cases. How does his experience affect his judgement? When do we say “Enough! This ends now.”

    Tony got multiple promotions, including the highest one, without ever answering for his misconduct. Meanwhile, the woman who was just starting out her career after the agency invested in her success? She is no longer with the agency. How many times have we seen that happen? How many times can at least half the workforce see the unfairness of this? Years after he left, employees on the forest remained disgusted and concerned about what happened. This was not just about a consensual relationship between two people; many more were affected. To have Tooke returned as the leader of the very region where he offended was shocking enough—to have him appointed as the Chief was a breaking point.

    Forest Service employees deserve a Chief who sets the highest moral standards for leadership, someone who can be trusted and held as an example. The Chief must be beyond reproach.

    • Florida- do you mean you want them in your inbox and they are not coming there? Did you sign up for posts in the widget to the right (that shows up on computers)? Trying to figure if there is a technical glitch…

      • I have had this blog delivered to my inbox every Monday for years, and for the past several Mondays the email content has not included any of the Tooke threads. I stumbled on them while looking at comments on the other Planning topics that are the usual subject of the blog. My husband found one by Googling Tony Tooke’s name. So, it seems to me that this is a smaller than usual audience. Not sure why that is. Thanks for carrying the discussion. I haven’t seen many thoughtful comments on this elsewhere. I think the rightfully suspect Daily Caller source has caused some to question the veracity of the information, but without anyone willing to go on the record, and trying to respect the privacy of the other party, it seems the DC might have been the only outlet willing to carry it.

          • Tooke’s alleged affair hasn’t received journalistic coverage because, except for the Daily Caller, journalism has professional standards. An anonymous source makes a hearsay accusation about a 10-year-old private, consensual extra-marital affair carried on by a mid-level federal civil servant. That’s news how? The #metoo movement is founded on personal, first-hand, accounts of sexual harassment and abuse. That’s the source of its power to effect real change. If #metoo becomes “I heard that so-and-so said that he did thus-and-such to you-know-who,” the movement will (and should) die.

            • Andy Stahl: “If #metoo becomes “I heard that so-and-so said that he did thus-and-such to you-know-who,” the movement will (and should) die.”
              ===

              Interesting. I’ve also been reluctantly watching the News stories over there in your country from over here in Sweden. A similar scenario has been plaguing your country over there with anonymous leaks, rumors and inuedos taken as fact, especially if it has potential to damage a hated enemy who has a different worldview than someone else. Take those large much publicized congressional hearings and other investigative hearings by the special prosecutor. The subject matter is irrelevant, but I’m amazed at how these various people who are subpoenaed to tesify and be question seem to lawyer up who advise them to say, “I don’t recall,” or “I take the 5th,” or “I claim executive privilege,” etc and yet these same people have no problem going to social media, the press, other media, etc and saying whatever and it’s accepted as fact. I have a feeling most everything now days is becoming factoidal as opposed to real facts. Yeah the world has really become an enlightened place.

  12. I admire the courage of Andrea in telling her story. I am sorry to hear of your experience in the agency, and of the effect this has had on your life. This should not be tolerated in the workplace, and in my view, especially at the U.S. Forest Service.

    I care deeply about the agency, the importance of its role, and its place in the American consciousness. Unfortunately, there are many forces challenging the agency right now: from the perfect fire-storm of climate change, politics, and an anemic industry; to a serious lack of capacity on almost all-fronts.

    The irony is that the agency has, at times of tectonic shifting on any issue (e.g. climate change), tended to keep its head down. Other institutions then led the charge. It is no wonder that budgets shrink, there is less support to deal with the pyrocalypse, and the spectre of reorganization hovers.

    The Forest Service was and should be a leadership agency. Leadership is more about integrity and inspiration than apologies and rationalization.

    I am troubled by this revelation and your accounts. With the ongoing news on sexual impropriety (where do I start), we have witnessed selective ambivalence for political convenience. But this is a national moment of improvement and progress. We have well-passed the point at which it is questionable whether anybody, and especially a young person seeking to learn and get ahead in their career, should have to entertain an intimate relationship with superiors to be successful. It hurts people and diminishes faith in the organization as a whole.

    It is not an issue that can simply be ignored, excused, or swept under the rug. The stories must have spread and are likely demoralizing, and reaffirm the hopelessness of situations that some employees may be facing right now. The Forest Service cannot afford another brand of sorrow to seep into its culture.

    I like Chief Tooke and I believe in redemption and forgiveness, yet I am still not sure what the Chief or leadership should do. If this is more than smoke, but a fire on a topic commanding national attention, I would like to see the Forest Service be a leadership agency.

    • Anon- not sure that with what we know, even how many years ago, a person “had to” entertain a relationship “to be successful.” That would make it a clear case of harassment and we don’t know that.

  13. Agree, cannot be sure what happened and cannot be diagnosed from afar, but I am inclined to be sympathetic to the accounts posted here. In general, I think one of the problems in excusing advances by superiors in the workplace is that junior, and especially new employees, are uncertain of what may come of giving the cold shoulder. It is simply not a situation to impose on employees and their colleagues. I am a fisherman, and while I might not get a bite, I know when I cast I am still disturbing (maybe harassing) the fish…To what degree I would trust the fishes’ account, not mine.

  14. Andrea Payne Haines (Dale) I heard the Department has opened a investigation on Chief Tooke. I appreciate you coming forward. I heard you have have received some input from the WO I hope that’s not the case.

    Regards

  15. I too applaud the courage of Andrea and Florida Woman. I am Another Florida Woman and, believe me, it happened. It also happened hat he threatened her afterward after being told not to have further contact with her. I know there are other women out there and hopefully more will have the courage to come forward. As Florida Woman said, their is strength in numbers and we deserve a Chief with more integrity. I find it interesting that men are quick to jump to his defense because it was consensual. Yes – it was consensual. But that doesn’t negate that it happened in the first place. How would a young, up and coming employee react when attention is shown from someone in a higher position? Like Andrea, she was brought along and groomed under the guise of “mentoring.” It’s all quite sickening. I only have admiration for those willing to speak out.

  16. In response to andystahl, if you are the fseee Andy Stahl, what day you now that came out and ADMITTED it was true? With ethics in your orgs name I am curious. Aside from this now admitted occurance my issue is that if, I did the same thing I would be on the street without a job. But no with Tony Tooke the great creator of the Munford School when he was a District Ranger, the great Tony Tooke who took a stand on improper activities on the Trail of Tears, he gets a pass. NO ONE in our office will take anything leadership promotes about ethical conduct seriously until he is out. What bothers me more is how he still is with young attractive women. At a meeting in May 17 when he was still Regional but the rumors were he was a strong possibility to be Chief after Tidwell. Anyway some of us lower grade employees got to spend time introducing ourselves and chat with him, my group of 5 was first he shakes everyone’s hand except for “Susan” when he moved on “Susan” turned to me and said “that’s weird it’s like I wasn’t even there, he never made eye contact with me and never shook my hand”. So now curious she and I peeled away and watched as he interacted with about another 8 or so groups and the pattern repeated he did not or barely acknowledged any of the young attractive women. So of course she and I started making stories to each other as a joke, that he must of had some torrid love affair with a young woman and this is how he was handling it. Needless to say when this story came out in early January “Susan” was the first to call me up and notify me. What was disappointing is that it was an affair with a FS underling. Having the affair I could care less having it be an employee makes it the problem. Any one else current FS? Anyone else notice how last weeks “inside the FS” email about what the agency was doing regarding harassment? First “inside the FS” in a while where it was not brought to you by the Chief…

    • I am troubled by your experience. The unintended backlash on attractive women could be very damaging. Either they are favored and given special treatment or for self-preservation will be discarded.

      Also, lower-graded employees, particularly men, feel frightened by the hypocrisy here. If it were them, they would be treated at a much higher standard than our own Chief. Ironic, aye?

      As for the “Inside the Forest Service” email last week, I too, noticed it did not contain his usual photo but a photo of an acting deputy chief. The fact that a message about something as important as sexual harassment can’t come from the Chief or even have the usual photo of him associated with the weekly message, speaks volumes about his credibility on this issue.

      It also seems to me that the Chief’s Office used the R5 survey to address sexual harassment that has primarily been directed at the Chief by throwing Region 5 under the bus without addressing the real elephant in the room -his history with young, lower-graded, women in the Agency. From afar, it appears that his message, through self-preservation, cast a shadow over Region 5 and used them as the issue. We all know where the real issue and credibility lies, and that is with the Chief himself. PBS and Dateline are covering sexual harassment in FS over the next two months. I am eager to see if the Chief’s behavior and credibility on this issue will be covered.

      I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts.

      • Jim, I disagree with you on a number of points.
        (1) Tony is one person. He had a consensual relationship years ago. He may have threatened that person but we don’t know that for sure. We’ve had one brave soul say that he made a pass at her, but she doesn’t want him removed.
        (There is a school of thought in the rumor mill that he is still harassing and/or having consensual relationships but I can’t go there until the information is public.)
        I would say that most people don’t do sexual harassment because they don’t want to or they don’t want to get into trouble. This will not change regardless of what comes out about the Chief. If it turned out that he had made denigrating comments about X group, I wouldn’t suddenly start doing it because he was the Chief. If guys are frightened by “different punishment for different people” they must not have been working in the FS too long. That’s the way it is.

        (2) I do agree with you that the response has not been optimal. I can only imagine that it’s because there is an ongoing investigation and the answer of what he should do depends on the outcome.

        (3) I have no idea why OIG did the study it did and designed it the way it did. It looks like they asked people if they were harassed without defining it. Then they defined sexual harassment, but not the other forms. I couldn’t tell what on earth they were trying to get at. But if it’s an OIG investigation then the FS shouldn’t have had anything to do with the (really bad IMHO) design. If the FS had, they have wonderful social scientists who could have designed something meaningful and helpful.

        (4) You are entitled to think Tony’s past (present? we don’t know) personal behavior is “the elephant in the room.” Personally I think there are a great many elephants. I’ll just pick one.. if you compare Regional Foresters to Station Directors, there have been very few women (none right now?) Station Directors and lots of women Regional Foresters. Whassup with that? Am I the only one that noticed this going on for 15-20 years?

    • Jeff M — It’s no secret who I am on this blog. Would you like to identify yourself, too?

      You appear to accuse Tooke of being shy (i.e., “being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity”) around “young attractive” women. There ain’t no government rule against shyness, Jeff. Whether around women or men, young or old, pretty or unattractive.

      As I’ve explained before on this blog, no rule bars consensual sex between federal civilian government co-workers. If you’d like Congress to pass such a law, I encourage you to contact your legislator.

      • Andy I have zero issue with the the sex, I have a huge issue that someone who was in a position of power used that position to get his girlfriend preferential treatment. I am NOT accusing him of being shy, in fact aside from the joking about the observation it was disrespectful to be in a group of 6 or so people and not acknowledge the young women on the same professional level as everyone else. This was in his capacity as regional forester and we were all Region 8 staff. So forget the sex, forget the authority issues for a second if he cannot treat every single FS employee in a room with the same professional respect he should never have reached district ranger level.

        • Jeff.. I like how you have divided up those two things…

          Preferential treatment for certain women.. I like the goal of “not having preferential treatment” but is it OK when it’s because they are hunting or fishing buddies? Or because you had good experiences with them on your previous unit? When I was in the RO, we got three people in sequence from Region 8 who knew and trusted each others’ work. Was that because they were the best qualified or because of preferential treatment? Are other forms of personal chemistry preferential or not?

          Not being able to treat everyone with professional respect would be a deal breaker that someone should have noticed along the way. Personally, I never noticed that in any of my encounters with him when he was Director of EMC (other than after I had become a persona non grata), but then I wasn’t specifically looking for it (I was too busy trying to stay out of trouble.. no.. really), and maybe this behavior changed through time after Region 8.

        • I think that gets to Andrea’s point that he could still be a good Chief. I would add “with appropriate contrition and change in behavior”, if the idea is to stop harassment in the FS.

          Sharon as the Chief declared in is letter to all employees. One is too many. I would prefer to hold him to this standard.

        • Jeff M — Chief Tooke was chosen by the Trump Administration, using whatever criteria it thought important to doing the job. Maybe “respect” for the workforce isn’t one of them. Who knows? Ask Trump.

          • I doubt that the President would be directly involved in picking Chiefs. Our bizniz, as important as we think it is, is probably not on his radar screen. Personally that’s one of the things I liked about picking him.. he got most of his big promotions during the Obama administration, so it’s hard to fit his ascendancy as Chief into the “R’s pick bad people” narrative.

            • You’ve got to be kidding me. So JWT wasn’t a Clinton Administration pick? He got his high-profile previous promotions under Republican administrations.

              Tooke is Trump’s guy, whether by way of Secretary Perdue or some other Trump political apparatchik. That’s the way the system works. The winner gets to choose.

          • As I said I am discussing Predatory Behavior. You are wraped around the axle regarding sexual harassment.

            My point is he has exhibited Predatory Behavior.
            I for one would not want a Chief that exhibits that behavior. Simple as that.

            • There ain’t no such critter as “predatory behavior,” i.e., show me the federal rule that defines and/or bans it. There isn’t one. You may think his behavior to be obnoxious, morally repugnant, despicable, wrong, conceited, arrogant, or whatever. But, based on the anonymous (and unverified) accusations made, Tooke has broken no rules or laws. The burden is on you, the accuser, to point out the rule or law he has allegedly broken. Good agency administrators/HR people do their homework. You haven’t done yours.

  17. So let’s discuss the taboo – the unintended consequences.
    We have gone thru the past, but what about the future? How will the numerous – possibly hundreds of accusations over the past several years with increasing intensity, both true and especially those proven false, effect the future work place? I can tell you from personal experience that it won’t be positive one, even though it should be. Attractive women will be shied away from by self conscious male superiors because the risk of some accusation isn’t worth it. I’ve already seen people walking on egg shells in meetings and in the field when in mixed company because of the fear of something being mischaracterized.
    Less than qualified people of both sexes have already be being promoted because of “equality” issues, often creating an elephant in the room. Now will we see more women promoted regardless of qualifications or being the best person for the job? Long term if this happens, it is not beneficial to an agency, company or the person being promoted.
    Thoughts?

  18. Based on the accounts of Andrea and the Florida women the type of behavior displayed by the Chief Tooke (IMO) is “Predatory”.

    “If” it applies do we want a Chief with that label? Just saying.

    • Willie, I believe Andrea totally. In her words “After all of this, I still believe he is a good leader. How can that be? I guess there is “a little bit of bad in the best of us and a little bit of good in the worst of us”. ”

      If there had been found to be other examples of harassment (non-consensual things), what if he apologized, said he had done bad things, there was no excuse and he promised that it wouldn’t happen again? And appointed someone without these things hanging over them (perhaps a woman!) to lead the sexual harassment effort with daily/ weekly briefings to him on progress. In history, many people have built off their own sorrow for their transgressions to become passionate about keeping other people from that behavior (think St. Augustine of Hippo).

      I think that gets to Andrea’s point that he could still be a good Chief. I would add “with appropriate contrition and change in behavior”, if the idea is to stop harassment in the FS.

      And if Andrea is the only voice that comes forward, then shouldn’t we go with what she says? Just some thoughts.

  19. Sorry his behavior is calculated and planned out. He was looking for a quid pro quo. I do believe Andrea, which makes his behavior predatory. Behaviors are difficult to change Chief Tooke if he hasn’t already will prey again.

    Examples Larry Nassar USOC and MSU. Priest, the Church turn a blind eye and reassigned them to another parish. Wienstein Preyed on Young Actress. Charlie Rose preyed on interns. Dustin Hoffman etc.
    Now to be clear I’m only discussing a pattern of behavior.
    Do we ( retirees and current) employees want a Chief that Exhibits Predatory Behavior. The definition can be goggled.

      • One case of any kind of harassment remains one too many; and we are seeing more than that. Since implementing our updated policy, we have examined more than 400 allegations. We substantiated 83, including sexual assault — we removed that employee. Further, we recorded 34 cases of sexual harassment — employees were removed, terminated, suspended or received reprimands, depending on offense. Another 51 cases of other forms of harassment were substantiated and disciplinary actions were taken.

        https://www.fs.fed.us/blogs/national-priority-empower-uplift-employees-will-help-us-improve-our-work-environment

              • If you are changing the argument to “political appointees don’t have to be ethical,” that might be truer. But resistance sometimes brings them down as well for ethical lapses – like most recently for buying stock in a company you were going to regulate.

              • I suppose in your business it’s necessary to paint everything with broad brush. As in “You think the Trump organization is good?” I believe the Sec of Defense Jame Mattis position on who is fit to serve. After Trumps Twit. Is to be commended. Nicki Haley my kind of person as Governor removed the stars and bars from the state capital. I love her comments to UN we are taking names. Elaine Chao Sec Transportation veteran administrator w direct connection to the Senate.
                I really liked Sec State “Moron” candid statement.
                Chief of Staff John Kelly I admire his sense of duty to our country trying to heard cats in the west wing. As well as his honorable service to our country. To mention a few.

                I surprised u do not end you comments with pls Donate to…

    • Without a complainant there is no harassment. There’s no such thing as complaining on behalf of someone else. That’s what’s missing from the Tooke affair — an aggrieved victim. It is reported to have been consensual sex.

      Nor does it have to be a superior/subordinate relationship; any unwelcome sexual act in the workplace constitutes harassment. If a subordinate persists in unwelcome flirting with his superior, that’s harassment. If a co-worker doesn’t take “no” for an answer and persists in asking her colleague out on dates, that’s harassment.

    • Jim, that happened to me in pre-FS world, in my case, at a university. First, let me speak as a human being, and then as a member of an organization.

      For me it was complex. If you had asked me before, I would have said “no, that’s a bad idea for all kinds of reasons” but through time, the idea did not seem so bad and the human being that he was got shaded into being more attractive (hormones? who knows?). But is that so different than any other person you get to know by proximity? You start out and think they’re annoying but either they grow on you or don’t.

      Again, as a human being, a graduate student in this case, I was fully capable of knowing it wasn’t the smartest thing to do and doing it anyway. I felt that what occurred was within the social cocoon and that even if things went wrong, we shared a professionalism that wouldn’t unduly impact our day to day interactions (I was in a two year program) at the time. Anyway, these are all specifics but I wanted to highlight the importance of women’s agency in making our own decisions and mistakes, including those about our own sexual relationships.

      As an organizational person, I would have to say “tell all supervisors not to date their employees” and I think that that is the best case. But what about a previous Chief whom most of us admire greatly, who dated someone in his chain of command? What about all the successful relationships in the FS that started that way?

      Given the conditions of today, I could say, “then is then, and now is now and the FS should adopt a formal anti-fraternalization policy, as Andy has suggested.” Personally, I have more trouble with making it retroactive.

      • To clarify, I’m against an anti-fraternization policy. I’m in favor of committing workplace expectations to clearly articulated written rules, i.e., no unwritten codes of conduct. I don’t think an anti-fraternization rule is realistic, enforceable, or desirable. I fully support everyone’s right to make their own sexual relationship decisions and mistakes. I’m against sexual harassment in the workplace, i.e., unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. I’m pro-flirting (“behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions”) because life is too short.

        • Sorry, Andy, and thanks for clarifying. I am also not sure about anti frat policies. As a wonk, I’d need more data. I’d have to examine organizations like the military and see how anti-frat policies have been working for them, and look at alternatives. My point was mostly about retroactive and random enforcement of unwritten policies.

  20. Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives. It has actually been pretty thought provoking and helpful. There is no easy solution. I guess if there we’re, someone would have implemented it by now.

  21. I commented on this site in January, thanking Andrea. I moved on.

    Today I returned because another employee asked me about this and it got my hackles up. Let me start by saying 1) I am a current employee. 2) I am a Supervisor and 3) I am female. I have met the Chief briefly but do not know him.

    A few reactions:
    -many men I know are angrier about this than many/most women. I love them for that. They know that if they did the same thing there would be heck to pay.
    -everyone who keeps saying this is consensual and does not constitute harassment clearly Are kidding themselves or justifying their own past acts. Harassment can be claimed by anyone—not just the person he had the affair with. Frankly, I could claim harassment if I knew a coworker had a relationship with a subordinate. Anyone who supports employee ethics would support those who have to work in an environment (and do not want to) with a supervisor who has done this.
    -many women (probably men too) who have been harassed or assaulted do not report it at the time… and only do later if they know they are not alone. The fear of being judged is real. When I have been exposed to harassment allegations, the “victim” often tells me all the things she/he has done wrong because of insecurity, fear of retaliation, or a whole host of other complicated reasons. People are not “weak” for not reporting. This is what the agency needs to get to for us to change the culture. The new reporting hotline is helping.
    -I have seen harassment cases that were not substantiated and closed. Some time later, a completely different case mirrors the first. The pattern is much more powerful than any one he said/she said act. Consider the Rob Porter situation. As much as I hate that this is true, I am not sure the current FS system has a way to detect patterns, especially if the accused changes jobs.

    I appreciate the Chief’s technical leadership ability. Given the conversation I had with another employee who was struggling with it, it has resurfaced my own concerns. I hope any women who have information that will allow the full situation to be reviewed report it, especially if there is/was a pattern of behavior. I do trust the agency will protect them based on recent changes I have seen.

    • *Moderator Hat*

      All of us moderators, maybe begrudgingly, have agreed that keeping anonymous people anonymous is the right thing to do. We can see your e-mail address but, it is never posted or shared. As a former USFS employee, I learned not to trust my internet opponents in contentious discussion sites. Keep your career safe!

      • Thanks for that. Just curious, do you think what I said would be construed as risky for my career? Perhaps you said that for others.

        I do not know what the Chief is guilty of or not. I am not here to judge him because I do not know all the facts. I do know that when someone reached out to me concerned last week, it shook me up and made me wonder if by “moving on” for my own sanity I was not part of the problem. Alas, I hope if their are experiences that need to be shared—even if old ones—their persons feel they can do so without retailiation. If not, then I want to be part of the solution.

        • My point was merely about keeping people anonymous, here, if they desire it. We do have some Forest Service ‘lurkers’, who might want to participate in these discussions but, fear someone may ‘out them’. I was once reported to the Chief by an Internet opponent. Nothing happened but, I had to tell my boss of the possibility that something could come of it.

  22. Larry is right. “Keep your career safe”, or stay true to your inner voice and speak out. The fact that we have to make this choice, especially regarding harassment, is tragic. I have made mine. Of course, I have had critism. I have also had incredible support.

    I told my story, in large part, to encourage others to speak out because I have reason to believe there are others. Maybe some consented. That’s ok. Maybe some didn’t. Regardless, it is sobering to know how widespread this knowledge is and see so many turn a blind eye. There is no judging you whether you do or do not come out and say what you have seen or experienced. At the end of the day, you have to be at peace with yourself.

    I will tell you that coming out about my experience with the Chief on this blog was one of the scariest things I have done in my life, and that is saying a lot!

    I knew the risks and stayed true to myself. Will I climb the ladder? No. Will I keep my job? Hopefully. Regardless, I have something far much more important -I know at the deepest level of my being that I did the right thing despite what others may think of me. As Maya Angelou says, “the price is high, but the reward is great.”

    I heard that there are anonymous victims with stories about the Chief that will be shared on Dateline by Liz Brown (a producer) and Katy Tur (a reporter). I have no idea whether or not this is 100% true. As of this time, I will not be one of them, but I just wanted to let you all know that the conversation may not be over just yet.

  23. Amy, I’m not sure what you are saying is true. Maybe they have changed the definitions (in the FS or the broader world), so that’s why I would be confused.

    “Harassment can be claimed by anyone—not just the person he had the affair with. Frankly, I could claim harassment if I knew a coworker had a relationship with a subordinate. Anyone who supports employee ethics would support those who have to work in an environment (and do not want to) with a supervisor who has done this.”

    Here’s the EEOC definition:

    “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

    Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

    Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

    Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

    The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

    For dozens of years, I asked the question when people would tell me “so and so is dating so and so”, “isn’t he her supervisor? Isn’t that not OK?” Including a former Chief.

    My points are 1) “unwelcome” seems to be in the definition. Andrea has come forward and said that publicly. So it’s a fact that Tony has sexually harassed at least one person (not consensual). That’s all I need to know about Tony. But more broadly,

    2) broadening it to all consensual relationships would require a definitional change and an explicit anti-fraternization policy.

    3) The only thing that bothered me about consensual relationships (between supervisors and supervisees) was that they didn’t follow our “rules that weren’t written down.” And why have unwritten rules if no one follows them?
    For me there were a lot more irritating behaviors that my supervisors could do, and have done, than get involved, either physically or emotionally, with one of my coworkers. And where does extra attention, and relationship that makes someone inclined to favoritism, start and stop? How about not going on hunting trips with subordinates? Or going drinking alone with them? Or say, shopping? If apparent favoritism is a thing, why is romantic or sexual in a different box than other, more traditional “good old boy” forms? Religious communities, who have been trying to get along with each other for thousands of years, have a concept of “particular friendships” and have written a great deal about these. Perhaps we could gain some insights about being in community from that literature. I have also seen staff disruption from two coworkers with “some kind of involvement, possibly sexual” becoming a “team of two,” leaving the rest of us out.

    Finally, I have also seen the movement of the potentially cleared offender to a new location where they repeat the offense, and the pattern becomes clear. The FS could certainly be more organized about tracking that.

    • Sharon: A point of clarification . . . Andrea wrote that Tooke “made a pass at me.” A single “pass” does not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. The proposer cannot know his/her interest is unwelcome until the first pass is rejected — a simple “no” works well for that purpose. Once “no” is said, a second pass IS sexual harassment. Just from the facts Andrea presented, no harassment occurred. Of course, more facts could lead to a different conclusion.

      • Not sure I concur. If my boss made a pass at me I would report it as harassment immediately and I think I would have a legitimate case. Thank goodness I don’t have any worry of that occurring.

        If a co-worker made a pass at me, I would only report it if it was crude, vulgar, or repeated. Of course I am married, so my husband might feel differently.

        • A single sexual overture can constitute harassment if it is a “quid pro quo” solicitation, i.e., “go out with me and I’ll give you that promotion you want.” Otherwise, I can’t think of how an isolated instance, even from superior to subordinate (these are adults we’re talking about here), meets the legal definition of sexual harassment.

          By all means, the subordinate can register strong disfavor by reporting the flirtatious incident to HR or higher authorities. HR’s response might be “did you tell him/her ‘I’m not interested?'” If the junior employee says, “I was too flustered/intimidated/whatever to say ‘no,'” then a humane HR staff would go to the flirt and tell him/her to knock it off. Thus HR can help prevent actionable sexual harassment from occurring before it happens.

    • Thanks for sharing. Rethinking how we handle these issues is important This really focuses on peers, to Supervisor/subordinate. To me, big difference. I will do some looking in current policy and materials on how we are being trained.

  24. As promised. http://downloadsdoc.com/doc/4388 FSM 1765. Note section f: “… it may consist of an isolated incident of behavior with a sexual connotation or could include repeated unwelcomed flirtations;”. Once from a supervisor certainly fits this…and may even from a coworker.

    1765.05 – Definitions

    Harassment. Generally, there are three types of harassing behavior: Sexual Harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Based Harassment; and Other Workplace Harassment.
    1. Sexual Harassment. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature when:
    a. Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
    b. Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
    c. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (29 CFR 1604.11).
    d. Examples of sexual harassment include: graphic verbal commentaries, verbal exchanges, or jokes with a sexual connotation; behavior with sexual overtones which is intimidating or offensive to the recipient, or to one who observes such behavior or other displays; unnecessary or inappropriate touching or grabbing; making lewd gestures; pressuring for sexual activity; offensive sexual flirtation, advances, or propositioning; using sexually degrading words to describe an individual; and/or the display in the workplace of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, computer screen savers, or written materials.
    e. Sexual harassment can occur at any time and any location, regardless of whether the acts occur on or off the workplace or federal property, and whether they occur during or after work hours.
    f. Inappropriate Conduct of a Sexual Nature (referred to herein as sexual misconduct) can create or be the basis of sexual harassment. It may consist of an isolated incident of behavior with a sexual connotation or could include repeated unwelcomed flirtations; repeated unwanted requests for dates; or repeated suggestive comments about or references to someone’s anatomy; or ridicule or teasing regarding an employee’s gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

  25. Thanks for finding and posting this, Amy! I noticed that it had been revised in 2017.. I wonder what previous versions looked like?

    Of course I retired five years ago, but don’t remember being trained on f) ” isolated incident of behavior with a sexual connotation.” I wonder how broadly “with a sexual connotation” could be interpreted? The trouble with the Manual (besides the fact that many people don’t read them) is that there are no examples.

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