Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2014

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BLM investigates hazing allegation

The Bureau of Land Management has completed an investigation into a complaint filed by a female firefighter who said she was sexually harassed and endured hazing, officials said Thursday.

The investigation concluded Wednesday, and a report has been turned over to BLM administrators in Reno and Las Vegas, BLM spokeswoman Jo Simpson said.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who attended a ceremony at Hoover Dam Thursday to mark a regional water pact, said she has heard only sketchy details on the BLM issue. She said hazing is not an acceptable part of the BLM's hiring process.

"We certainly want to look into that and make sure our employees are acting appropriately," Norton said.

The Las Vegas BLM firefighter, working on a crew over the summer, filed the complaint Sept. 26, 2003, Simpson said.

The hazing consisted of "sophomoric" activities, such as forcing firefighters to do pushups if they failed to meet expectations, Simpson said.

The employee reported that she had been harassed and hazed throughout the summer.

"We were not aware of it, we were totally caught by surprise," Simpson said.

As soon as agency administrators learned of the allegation, she said, "We immediately started an investigation."

Investigators flew from Reno to Las Vegas on Sept. 28, a Sunday, and began interviews on Monday, Sept. 29, she said.

The completed report is under review by Mark Morse, the local BLM district manager, and Bob Abbey, BLM's state director in Reno.

Any action to be taken as a result of the investigation findings won't come until the review of the report is completed, but "it will be dealt with," Simpson said.

The woman was part of a fire crew working to protect the forests in the Spring Mountains. Ten employees were based at her station, Simpson said.

Two engine captains and eight firefighters worked in five-person teams, she said.

"The allegation said that the fire station climate allowed the hazing to take place," Simpson said.

Sun reporter Launce Rake contributed to this story.

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