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BILLINGS – An investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct at Yellowstone National Park revealed evidence of what some park employees called a “men’s club” environment that tolerated unwelcome and inappropriate behavior toward female employees.

The report was published Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Inspector General.

The investigation began in September of 2016 when an employee alleged male supervisors and staff in the Maintenance Division unit permitted a culture of gender bias, sexual harassment, and financial misconduct.

The employee alleged that the misconduct occurred from 2011 to 2015 and included groping of female employees.

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The investigation at YNP is part of a department-wide investigation involving several parks in the U.S. National Park Service.

“The behavior described in this report is unacceptable and has no place in our National Parks or in any workplace across the country,” said Montana’s Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines  in response to the report. “Our National Parks make our country uniquely American, but they must be a safe place for employees to work. As the new Chair of National Parks Subcommittee, I will demand vigorous oversight to ensure there is proper accountability.”

A full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met in September to discuss the widespread allegations of mistreatment of female employees at Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore.

A female employee at Yosemite National Park described a time where she was spied on by a male park ranger while she was showering at the park.

The woman said she reported the incident to her supervisor, who sat the woman down with the male park ranger for an apology.

She said no further disciplinary action was taken against the park ranger.

“It didn’t feel like a zero tolerance policy for me,” the woman said to the committee at the hearing. “There are a lot of other women out there that I represent that a lot of these same things have happened to. And they fear that management won’t take action and we go on to become victims again.”

According to the report on Yellowstone, evidence was also found to support allegations of financial misconduct at supervisory levels.

The Maintenance Division supervisor had allowed his employees to use his government credit card to make purchases, according to the report. That is against the Department’s Integrated Charge Card Policy.

Employees concealed the illegal spending by making split purchases, according to the report, where they would break large purchases into several smaller payments.

The investigation did not find evidence to support an employee’s allegations that a female employee had made more than $10,000 in personal charges to her government credit card.

The investigation did not produce proof of hiring discrimination, as was alleged by an employee.

The report was sent to the Acting NPS Director for further review.

MTN’s Aja Goare 

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