Tuesday, April 13, 2010

State names temporary replacements for six indicted Wildlife Division officials

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is being forced to play musical chairs as it makes assignments for the positions temporarily vacated by six agency officials charged with various offenses in Brown County Common Please Court.

Assistant Wildlife Division chief Jim Marshall is filling in for agency chief David Graham who was placed on paid administrative leave following his indictment last week.

Meanwhile, Ken Fitz - a commissioned officer with the Wildlife Division - will assume the temporary duties of agency law enforcement administrator James Lehman, who also is on paid administrative leave.

Filling in for the agency’s second assistant chief, Randy Miller, is Don Daugherty, whose present position is manager of the Wildlife Division’s District 2 (northwest Ohio). Daugherty will assume both duties on a temporary basis. Miller is on paid administrative leave.

Assuming temporary command of the Wildlife Division’s District 5 (southwest Ohio) is Dave Kohler, a Wildlife Division wildlife biologist. He is filling in for Todd Haines who likewise is on paid administrative leave.

For the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, the agency will use at-large agents as well as the district’s wildlife officer supervisor. Placed on paid administrative leave as well is the state wildlife officer assigned to the county, Allan Wright.

And for the position of the Wildlife Division’s human resources manager no one has yet been assigned that duty, said Mike Shelton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Placed on paid administrative leave also is Michele Ward-Tackett.

The matter stems from an alleged incident in which Wright was said to have allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in order to obtain an Ohio hunting license on Nov. 5, 2006.

Wright is charged with two counts of tampering with records (third-degree felonies) and one count of falsification for allegedly altering official Natural Resources records (a first-degree misdemeanor).

Charged with one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstructing justice (fifth-degree felonies) were Graham, Miller, Lehman, Haines, and Ward-Tackett.

It is alleged that these officials should have handled the Wright case differently and investigated it as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter that resulted in a verbal reprimand for Wright.

Pre-trial hearings for the six defendants have been set in Brown County Common Pleas Court.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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