GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park in California, has been temporarily reassigned to Grand Canyon National Park during a federal investigation of the park’s chief.
Christine Lehnertz, who took over at Grand Canyon in 2016 in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal that eventually ended in the retirement of former superintendent David Uberuaga, was placed under investigation Oct. 23.
The agency has not revealed what prompted the investigation and has not given a timeline on when it will be completed.
Smeck has been the superintendent at Sequoia-King’s Canyon since 2013. Previously, he was deputy superintendent at Yosemite National Park. Prior to his posting at Yosemite, Smeck worked at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for 21 years, the last eleven of them as superintendent.
Smeck earned bachelor’s and master’s Degrees in Landscape Architecture from California Polytechnic State University. He began his professional career with the National Park Service in July 1991 as a landscape architect and still maintains his license to practice landscape architecture in the state of California.
As regional director of the Pacific West at the time, Lehnertz praised Smeck’s appointment to the Sequoia-King’s Canyon post, calling him a proven leader with a track record of building strong partnerships and community relations.
Smeck’s reassignment will be a short-term solution; Andrew Munoz, spokesman for the NPS Pacific West Regional Office, said a search is ongoing for a longer-term assignment to Grand Canyon.
In an interview with Wyoming Public Media, Jeff Ruch, executive director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the moves suggest the investigation into Lehnertz could take a long time. He also said her removal appeared to be a case of guilty-until-proven-innocent.
“It’s one of these things where — even if there’s no misconduct found — there’s a permanent impairment on the superintendent’s career,” he said.
Lehnertz has been reassigned to the NPA national office in Denver pending the outcome of the investigation. An NPS spokesperson said investigators have 30 days to produce a report after the completion of the investigation and the agency will determine the appropriate next steps based on that report. The report is to be made public 30 days after receipt by NPS.
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