Here’s the link. If anyone wants to watch and report, please comment below.
There was a radio show with Shannon Reed, Lesa Donnelly and Lawrence Lucas on Blog Talk Radio. The link is here. I think it was Lesa that said some pretty derogatory things about the Chief and other women leaders in the FS (to my mind, uncalled-for). It does give you insight into what some of the players will say in a less formal environment than an Oversight Hearing.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will receive an update this week on the Forest Service’s response to a history of sexual misconduct in the agency, as complaints about officials’ response continue to surface.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen is among the witnesses scheduled to testify Thursday. Since taking charge of the Forest Service in March, she has put a new reporting system in place and vowed to change the workplace culture — but reports of harassment and retaliation against those who report it have persisted, according to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
The hearing follows a letter Gowdy wrote to the Department of Agriculture — which oversees the Forest Service — on Oct. 22, requesting documents and information related to sexual misconduct and the agency’s response. He had asked the department to comply by Nov. 5.
News reports this year have shed light on a long history of harassment and similar behavior within the agency, especially in firefighting crews. The scandal reached the top of the agency earlier this year, when Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke resigned amid reports about a romantic relationship he had a decade earlier with a lower-ranking agency employee, when he was a forest supervisor.
Christiansen has overseen the development of a new system to confidentially report incidents, as well as mandatory anti-harassment training for employees. USDA’s Office of the Inspector General has been looking into the issues, and Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong is scheduled to testify.
But a group of current and former Forest Service employees complained in a Nov. 9 letter to Christiansen and lawmakers that the department’s efforts have fallen flat and that officials haven’t responded to letters from the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees outlining many incidents.
“We women continue to be discriminated against, harassed, endured sexual and physical abuse, and experienced retaliation,” they wrote, asking for a meeting with Christiansen. “The Coalition had no choice but to seek congressional hearings and contact news media, radio media and television media to expose the serious issues of discrimination, harassment, and workplace violence against female employees.”
Retaliation against employees, including denial of training and fire assignments, and false disciplinary charges, has occurred since March, when Christiansen became interim chief after Tooke resigned, they said.
The current and former employees also asked to be included in meetings with USDA and the Forest Service “to collaborate on problem solving,” and they predicted that some of the signers of the letter will be “illegally fired.”
Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.
Phyllis Fong, USDA inspector general.
Shannon Reed, air quality specialist and former employee, Forest Service.
Does anyone have a copy of the Nov. 9 letter to Christiansen? Please email to me or attach in comments.