Updated 12:24 p.m. MT 3/14/19
Chris Lehnertz has resigned from her position running Grand Canyon National Park weeks after an internal investigation cleared her of unfounded harassment complaints.
“The events of the past few months have led me to reflect on my personal and professional priorities and to reassess how I can make the greatest difference in people’s [sic] lives,” Lehnertz wrote in a press statement.
The National Park Service employee decided to resign after three years at Grand Canyon National Park in order to pursue women’s empowerment, social justice and supporting families living with the challenges of Alzheimer's, according to the statement.
In February, Lehnertz was cleared of wrongdoing stemming from allegations she created a hostile work environment and bullied male leaders at the park.
Her lawyer, Kevin Evans, said Lehnertz initially refused to return to the park until her accusers were addressed. Evans also had concerns about the way the National Park Service handled the investigation. Lehnertz was hastily reassigned from her post running Grand Canyon National Park in October.
“It was an entirely inappropriate action, in my opinion,” he said. “She never should’ve been asked to leave the park. What that was done … I can connect the dots. I’m not willing to do that publicly, but none of this was proper in my book.”
The National Park Service said the former superintendent was reassigned to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Lehnertz became the first woman to run Grand Canyon National Park in 2016. She was hired on to help address a long-term pattern of harassment and discrimination there. Many at the park believed she was doing a good job.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said one Grand Canyon employee, who asked not to be named because she wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter and feared retribution for talking publicly about the matter. “I know so many people who absolutely loved Chris. She was such a positive addition to the park.”
Evans said Lehnertz would not speak publicly about the matter. Her last day is March 31, 2019.
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.