WDFW is reacting to a pair of news stories about a report that claims a “sexualized culture” existed among a few at upper levels of the agency before a rape allegation surfaced against a former wildlife manager there more than two years ago.
“The bottom line for me is, this was a couple years ago, we’re a big agency. We had some folks who behaved inappropriately and we take that seriously and have taken action to resolve it,” Deputy Director Joe Stohr told Northwest Sportsman this afternoon.
“Director Jim Unsworth again today said he has no tolerance for the sorts of allegations that have surfaced in these stories and in this case,” added Bruce Botka, WDFW spokesman.
In their joint reporting, The News Tribune of Tacoma and public radio’s Northwest News Network focus on a report from a Snohomish County law firm that contains accounts from several individuals, including Gregory A. Schirato, 55, who was charged with second-degree rape and first-degree burglary in April 2015.
Schirato has pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes, and his attorney told the Tribune‘s Walker Orenstein his client would be found innocent at his upcoming trial, which appears to have been moved to September. Schirato had been with the agency from 1983 into 2015, when he was fired.
The 29-page report from MFR Law Group was commissioned two years by WDFW to look into allegations of sexual harassment made by both Schirato and his alleged victim, according to radio reporter Austin Jenkins.
According to Orenstein, it found “a group of workers in the agency’s upper echelon often held or tolerated sexually explicit conversations at work. Some engaged in other inappropriate behavior both on the clock and after hours.”
For WDFW, yesterday’s news reopens a wound that will fester.
Stohr called it all a “sad and tragic occurrence” and said that WDFW has done a number of things to support staff members.
Botka said that speaking with people at regional offices, the feedback he’s getting is that “the vast majority in this agency have never heard of that or sensed anything like that.”
Stohr lauded WDFW employees, saying they’re “dedicated to protecting the resource.”