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Head Of Grand Canyon Will Return To Job After Allegations Are Deemed 'Unfounded'

photo of Lenhertz.
Grand Canyon National Park
Chris Lenhertz (right) has been reinstated as the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.

The head of Grand Canyon National Park is returning to her job after a four-month federal investigation found unspecified allegations against her were “unfounded.”

Superintendent Chris Lehnertz became the first woman to take charge of one of the nation’s most popular national parks in 2016. She arrived shortly after federal investigators found widespread evidence of sexual harassment in Grand Canyon’s River District. Lehnertz was tasked with changing the culture there, but had met resistance.

“Chris has been fully exonerated of all allegations,” wrote P. Daniel Smith, acting director of the National Park Service, in an email to employees Thursday. “[She] will be returning to the park soon to join all of you and assume her duties as superintendent.”

screenshot of email.
Credit Courtesy Grand Canyon National Park
The acting director of National Park Service emailed Grand Canyon staff announcing that Chris Lenhertz would return to her post.

Lehnertz was placed under investigation in October 2018. While Smith’s email doesn’t describe the reasons why, government officials familiar with the matter say the investigation was spurred by two management-level employees at Grand Canyon National Park. They complained that Lehnertz had created a hostile workplace.

Martha Hahn, a friend of Lehnertz and a former employee at Grand Canyon National Park, was driving back from a ski trip when she heard the news.

“It’s exactly what I figured was going to happen, but it’s good to have it verified,” she said. “That’s great.”

Questions still linger as to why Lehnertz was removed from her post during the investigation.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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