P. Daniel Smith serves as deputy director of the National Park Service. Photo: NPS

Leader of National Park Service apologizes for 'inappropriate' behavior

The highest-ranking official at the National Park Service apologized after being accused of grabbing his crotch and pretending to urinate against a wall in the hallway of the Department of the Interior, The Washington Post reports.

P. Daniel Smith, the deputy director at NPS, denied that his behavior constituted sexual harassment, according to an internal email obtained by The Post. But he said he was sorry for acting "in an inappropriate manner" while telling a story in the department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“I recognize that the story was inappropriate for the workplace, even though it does not rise to the level of harassment,” Smith wrote in the message to NPS employees, The Post reported. “I am very sorry for my mistake in telling this story and any discomfort it clearly caused.”

Smith isn't the only Interior figure accused of acting inappropriately at DOI. Bryan Rice, the former director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was the subject of an internal complaint after a female subordinate accused him of harassing her in a hallway last December.

Bryan Rice served as the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs until his mysterious disappearance in early April 2018. The Trump administration has since named someone else an "acting" director. Photo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Rice, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, mysteriously disappeared in early April as word of the incident spread on social media and in Indian policy circles in the nation's capital. He was then replaced by someone else as director but the Trump administration has refused to talk about what happened despite repeated inquiries.

"I have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment," Tara Sweeney, whom President Donald Trump has nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at DOI, said during her confirmation hearing last month. "No employee should ever fear coming to work because of harassment."

Sweeney, who is Inupiat from Alaska, has yet to be confirmed for the political-level post but the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is meeting on Wednesday to advance her nomination. The full Senate would then need to take action before she could join the Trump administration.

The BIA director job is held by a career employee at the agency. Rice was chosen for the position by the Trump administration in the midst of a massive reassignment initiative that disproportionately affected tribal citizens, a review by Talking Points Memo found.

Smith also was named to his job by the Trump administration. He is in charge of the NPS because the president has not nominated a permanent director.

Prior to assuming the top leadership role, he engaged in improper behavior by helping the owner of the Washington NFL team cut down trees in front of his expensive property in Maryland, The Post reported.

Smith was announced as the deputy director on January 9. The alleged crotch grabbing incident took place on January 10 or January 11, The Post first reported back in March.

Both the BIA and the NPS have the highest-reported rates of harassment among employees, according to a study released in December.

Read More on the Story:
The Energy 202: Zinke's 'zero tolerance' for workplace harassment is tested (The Washington Post June 5, 2018)
National Park Service chief apologizes for behaving ‘in an inappropriate manner’ (The Washington Post June 4, 2018)
Yellowstone boss to retire after Trump agency proposed move (The Associated Press June 2, 2018)
Facing reassignment under Trump, top Yellowstone official instead retires (The Washington Post June 1, 2018)
Interior’s top lawyer plays key role as troubleshooter, records reveal (The Washington Post May 31, 2018)