Federal officials target harassment in Arizona Tribes
PHOENIX (AP) — A scathing new report released this week by the U.S. Department of Interior casts a critical light on the Bureau of Indian Affairs response to sexual harassment complaints by Colorado River Indian Tribes workers and members involving a bureau employee.
The department’s Office of Inspector General report states BIA officials took insufficient action after an employee sent Tribes workers and members sexually explicit text and Facebook messages.
Officials released the summary of the report, which highlights the BIA officials’ lack of response among supervisors, managers and human resources regarding the employee’s actions. They have not released the name of the employee or the full report to the public.
Several women reported being sexually harassed by the BIA employee over a period of two years.
But the federal report states under human resource officials’ guidance, BIA supervisors didn’t discipline the employee even though they knew about his actions.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes confirmed in a statement Thursday that the issues were reported to the BIA over a number of years.
“They failed to address those issues until raised by the Tribal Council with higher level officials within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We appreciate the efforts of the OIG and hope the results of their report will effectuate real change within the BIA,” the Colorado River Indian Tribes said.
A human resources official “advised that the employee could not be disciplined because the complainants were not government employees and the harassment did not appear to be connected to the workplace,” according to the report.
That employee admitted to sending both online and handwritten sexually explicit notes and resigned in May. The person sent some of the messages while on duty, according to the department’s Office of Inspector General.
“We found that little to no effort was made by BIA supervisors, management, or HR officials to investigate the veracity of the allegations or determine the extent of the problem,” the report said.
BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling said the appropriate actions are being taken by the bureau.
The report comes after a survey of National Park Service employees found widespread complaints of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told employees during a visit to the Grand Canyon last Friday that he would hold people accountable for behavior that has killed morale within the Park Service.
Zinke urged employees to report misconduct and keep going up the chain of command if their complaints go unanswered.