Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brown County wildlife officer back on job

Allan Wright - state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County - can again strap on his service pistol and wear his Ohio Division of Wildlife badge.

Wright has been reinstated to his post late this afternoon (Thursday), following dismissal of charges earlier this month by Brown County special prosecutor David Kelly.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sean Logan made the reinstatement effective Monday, May 24, said ODNR spokesman Mike Shelton.

Wright had been placed on paid administrative leave as had five other Wildlife Division officials. These other officials remain on the paid administrative leave status.

The dismissal of charges came at the request of Kelly who informed the Brown County Common Pleas Court that he intends to conduct an independent investigation and presentation to the Brown County Grand Jury.

Should charges again be bought against Wright then the ODNR will place Wright back on paid administrative leave, pending the resolution of all legal issues, Shelton said Thursday.

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

The question arose in Kelly's mind whether the so-called Garrity Rule applied to Wright since he was questioned by the Ohio Inspector General during an official investigation. This rule spells out a civil servant's 5th Amendment rights against self incrimination if that person believes his job is threatened for failure to answer questions.

In Wright's case, Kelly believes, the Garrity Rule applies, hence the dropping of charges and separate investigation and possible presentation to the Brown County Grand Jury.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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