James “Jim” Milestone in an unrelated YouTube video.
The U.S. Department of the Interior has completed a nearly year-long investigation into an array of serious misconduct allegations surrounding former Whiskeytown National Recreation Area Superintendent James Milestone, who was reassigned to another post in September.
The investigation, released yesterday by the DOI’s Office of the Inspector General, cites interviews with dozens of park and regional employees, as well as local charity and business peoples. From these interviews, the DOI found routine violations of various federal regulations and National Parks Service policies, as well as questionable leadership practices and claims of sexual harassment.
“Our investigation substantiated that Milestone routinely violated various Federal regulations and NPS policies and demonstrated questionable leadership practices during his tenure as WHIS Superintendent,” the report reads.
The nine-page report breaks Milestone’s alleged misconduct down into six general violations: The improper solicitation and collection of donations for an outside charity group, the offering of park services for outside charity events, the misuse of state funds earmarked for specific purposes, negligence in regards to proper Native American cultural compliances, sexual harassment and the use of a government-owned vehicle for personal matters.
The report states that 25 current and former parks employees and one representative of the Friends of Whiskeytown — a non-profit that seeks private funding for Whiskeytown park projects — told investigators Milestone improperly solicited and collected donations for the FOW charity while in uniform.
When questioned about the allegations, Milestone admitted to investigations that he had spent the past seven years using his power to solicit money and auctions items like hot tubs and Hawaiian vacations from local business owners for FOW charity events, and instructed his subordinate employees to do the same. However, Milestone told investigators that he could not remember if his supervisors advised him that these actions violated federal regulations and NPS policy.
According to federal ethics regulations, public employees are prohibited from such fundraising, unless it is authorized by statute executive order, regulation, or agency policy. NPS employee policy also prohibits soliciting donations, even ones that benefit a park’s partnering organizations.
In addition to acquiring donations from outside entities, Milestone also reportedly offered up park services like employee resources and a weekend getaway at a Whiskeytown National Recreation Area cabin as donations for FOW charity events. According to 13 parks employees, Milestone asked parks employees to assist with FOW fundraising while on the clock. These tasks included creating brochures and event signage, and other clerical duties.
“One WHIS employee recalled attending an FOW meeting with Milestone in the summer of 2017, to discuss the FOW’s annual luau fundraiser scheduled for the following month,” the report reads. “During the meeting, Milestone offered three items for the auction: an evening cruise on his personal sailboat, a superintendent-guided waterfall hike at the park, and a weekend at the NPS cabin.”
Again, Milestone told investigators he thought these actions were in the scope of his authority.
One of the most glaring offenses detailed in the report is Milestone’s diversion of trail maintenance funds from the Crystal Creek Water Ditch Trail Project to a new trail still in the proposal phase.
According to a park employee, $30,000 had been approved for the Crystal Creek project in 2017. However, the employee told investigators that Milestone said he planned to use $10,000 for the trail’s maintenance, and began misappropriating some of the funds to begin work on the unapproved High Route Trail — a proposed hiking trail linking the west side of Whiskeytown high country with the east side of the park along a high elevation — allowing for deep forest hiking and views from the park’s ridgeline.
Not only was this a direct misuse of government funds, but the work which he ordered on the unapproved trail violated NPS compliance regulations put in place to ensure the preservation of any possible historical and cultural sites. When employees confronted Milestone with these issues, there was reportedly a “hostile exchange” in which he shouted: “I told you to work on that trail!”
One park employee recalled a 2017 compliance meeting where tribal consultation and the preservation of potential Native American archaeological sites along the High Route Trail. According to the employee, Milestone was frustrated with how long the trail approval process was taking; expressing that he didn’t think the cultural compliance phase was “a big deal,” and said that he planned to move ahead without going through the proper bureaucratic red tape.
Park employees also reported various instances of Milestone committing sexual harassment and creating on overall unprofessional work environment. These came in the form of inappropriate comments allegedly made by Milestone, a number of which are documented in the report:
- Condescending references regarding female employees’ uniform appearance but not that of male employees
- A derogatory remark about a female employee’s haircut during a meeting
- A remark during a management team meeting cautioning a female employee who was going through a divorce not to turn into “one of those old maids that never have children”
- A statement during a hiring board that he did not need another “strong willed woman” on the team
- References to overweight employees not looking good in their uniforms
- A comment saying a female employee should sit up straight because he liked when women sit up straight (gesturing to the employee’s chest)
- A comment to a female employee that she should go look at some recent graffiti vandalism—numerous paintings of penises—because she would like it
- He routinely told a story of a woman being raped and murdered in 2006 during his safety briefings as an example of the reason for maintaining situational awareness
When interviewed about the comments, Milestone told investigators that no one had ever told him his comments made them feel uncomfortable, and that he did not recall all of the comments.
Lastly, Milestone is accused of misusing a government-owned vehicle. Twelve park employees told the DOI that he used a government vehicle for personal errands like transporting his family, and possibly his dog, to and from the Redding area.
Despite the scathing report, Milestone has not been charged with any crimes, and is currently still an employee of the NPS.
The report states that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern Division of California declined to prosecute Milestone for providing false statements during the investigation. However, the report has been sent to the NPS Deputy Director, who may take further “appropriate” actions in regards to Milestone’s unprofessional conduct.