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Tue, Sept. 17

Head of Grand Canyon cleared of undisclosed allegations

In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, and Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Christine Lehnertz address National Park Service employees at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. Lehnertz is returning to work after being cleared in a federal investigation. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, and Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Christine Lehnertz address National Park Service employees at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. Lehnertz is returning to work after being cleared in a federal investigation. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

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Grand Canyon Superintendent Christine Lehnertz is returning to work after being cleared of any wrongdoing. In a statement Thursday, National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith praised Lehnertz and said the allegations against her were "wholly unfounded." (NPS photo)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A U.S. investigation at Grand Canyon National Park has ended with the exoneration of the park's superintendent and an announcement that she'll return to work soon.

Christine Lehnertz was reassigned in October while investigators from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General looked into undisclosed allegations against her.

In an email to park employees Thursday, National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith praised Lehnertz and said the allegations against her were "wholly unfounded."

He said Lehnertz has demonstrated broadly a commitment to building a respectful and inclusive workplace.

"Your continuing commitment to these changes is crucial," Smith told workers.

Nancy DiPaolo, a spokeswoman for the Office of Inspector General, said the investigative report wasn't ready to be released publicly.

The office typically releases such reports to federal agencies about a month before posting either a summary or the full, redacted report online.

A message left at a cellphone number listed for Lehnertz was not immediately returned.

Lehnertz is a trained environmental biologist who has been with the Park Service for more than 10 years.

She took the Grand Canyon job in 2016 as the park's first female superintendent after a sexual harassment scandal led to the retirement of its former chief.

In an email to park employees Friday, she said: "I'm excited to be getting back to work at Grand Canyon National Park and will be happy (to) rejoin you and my NPS colleagues in protecting, preserving and telling the stories of this amazing place."

The Grand Canyon is among the nation's busiest national parks with more than 6 million visitors a year. It's celebrating its centennial as a national park this month.

Lehnertz was tasked with changing the culture at the Grand Canyon after an earlier report by the Inspector General's Office found that some male employees in the now-defunct river district demanded sex from female colleagues and retaliated against women who refused.

Then-Superintendent Dave Uberuaga was forced to retire in May 2016. He wasn't implicated in the allegations of sexual assault, but federal investigators accused him of failing to properly look into and report them. He kept his job during the investigation.

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