Despite being cleared of unfounded harassment allegations last month, the head of Grand Canyon National Park is refusing to return to her job right away. Park superintendent Chris Lehnertz was hastily reassigned five months ago after the federal investigation was launched.
But a lawyer for Lehnertz said her reputation continues to be damaged by claims against her, and he wants the Interior Department to deal with her accusers before she returns.
“It’s outrageous the personal and reputational harm that was inflicted upon her and they’ve got to find a way to fix that,” attorney Kevin Evans said.
Evans is referring to both the unfounded harassment accusations and a recent, uncorroborated allegation from Grand Canyon’s safety director Elston Stephenson.
It came around the same time Lehnertz was exonerated from accusations she had bullied male leaders at the park and created a hostile work environment.
Now Stephenson is claiming that top park management failed to protect employees and tourists from uranium ore stored at a Grand Canyon museum. Evans believes Stephenson is targeting Lehnertz with this latest accusation.
It’s unclear whether the uranium actually posed a danger, although it appears unlikely. The federal government was already investigating before Stephenson’s allegation.
“There have been a number of spurious and baseless accusations that continue to be levied out at the park by at least one individual in particular,” Evans said. “I just didn’t consider the environment conducive to Chris’ return until that situation is rectified,” Evans said.
In an emailed statement, a National Park Service spokesperson said it won’t comment on personnel issues.
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.