A senior law enforcement official at the Interior Department who investigators documented had sexually harassed six women who worked for him or with him has retired, rather than face discipline, according to agency officials familiar with the terms of his departure.
Tim K. Lynn, a senior executive in charge of Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security, left the government in April and planned to return to his home state of Oklahoma, those two officials say. They asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the retirement.
Lynn’s departure came a little more than a month after Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall’s office disclosed what it said was a long pattern of inappropriate behavior he showed toward female employees.
Lynn, 52, a former law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service and Secret Service, had led a department that acts as a liaison to Interior’s other enforcement agencies. Investigators said in a detailed report in February that he acted inappropriately toward six women, touching, hugging, text-messaging and flirting with them at the office and discussing “inappropriate” subjects.
Investigators provided graphic detail about one of the women, a direct report who told a high-level supervisor that Lynn made lewd overtures and unwanted advances to her in the office.
The case was the first test of a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set for his 70,000 employees on his first day in office in March. The agency has been dogged for years by widespread allegations of inappropriate behavior, particularly at the National Park Service, where rangers and other employees work in remote locations where misconduct evaded scrutiny.
Sexual harassment cases at Yosemite National Park, Canaveral National Seashore and more recently, Yellowstone National Park have prompted angry congressional hearings and an ongoing, agencywide survey of Interior employees to gauge the scope of the problem. Lawmakers in both parties criticized the Obama administration for doing little to punish sexual predators.
Zinke told employees in an email on his first day that he would take swift action against any employee found to be engaging in sexual misconduct.
Heather Swift, an agency spokeswoman, confirmed that the Office of Law Enforcement is now being led by an acting director, Darren Cruzan. She declined to confirm Lynn’s departure, citing restrictions on disclosure of employee personnel information. Lynn did not return a phone message left with his ex-wife.
At an internal meeting in April, employees in the law enforcement division were told by Harry Humbert, a deputy assistant secretary, that Lynn was retiring, according to the two agency employees with knowledge of the meeting. Humbert told the staff that Lynn’s case was not to be discussed in the office, these employees said.
In the report, investigators gave an account of Lynn from one of the women as a “touchy-feely type guy” who would brush against her arm, squeeze her shoulders, administer “reflex checks” to her knees and occasionally wink at her during meetings. At first she did not tell anyone about these actions since she was new in the office “and wanted to see if they were just part of Lynn’s personality or something more,” the report said.
According to the report, the woman started to document the encounters last summer because they made her more uncomfortable. Lynn came into her office once when she was alone, put his head on her shoulder and rubbed her hair, she said. Then he joked that she was “looking at porn.” She said she was not.
Another time, the woman said Lynn told her, “I’m going to tell you something very, very private,” then showed her a Facebook photograph of a woman he said was his dental hygienist and told her that his hygienist wanted him to be her “sugar daddy.”
She told investigators Lynn asked her if she had ever dated anyone she worked with. He once saw her in the office icing her leg after a bike ride, asked her if she was hurt, and then said: “Do you want me to be like your daddy and kiss your boo-boos all better for you?” When she declined, he continued, investigators said. “What’s the matter? Did your daddy never kiss your boo-boos for you?” he said. When she told him his comments were “weird and uncomfortable,” he replied: “I’m so sad that your daddy never kissed your boo-boos for you.”
The employee survey of sexual harassment is expected to be released this summer.