Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Case regarding indicted Wildlife Division officials will go into overtime

Any expectations that a quick end is in sight for the case involving the five indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials was squashed Tuesday by Brown County prosecutor Jessica A. Little.

Little has taken the legal steps required to try and turn around the decision announced Monday by Brown County Common Please Court Judge Scott T. Gusweiler.

Gusweiler ruled in favor of the defendants, including the Wildlife Division’s chief, David Graham.

“We filed a notice of appeal (Tuesday). We believe that our case has been harmed so badly that we need the appeals court to look at it and possibly reverse the judge’s decision,” Little said.

At issue was the suppression of material collected during an investigation by the Ohio Inspector General. This disputed material relates to the so-called “Garrity Rule” which protects civil servants against self-incrimination while being investigated internally and thus could face such potentially adverse action as losing one’s job.

It is the contention of the defendants that they are protected by the “Garrity Rule,” with Judge Gusweiler agreeing with the defendants.

These defendants include Chief Graham, assistant Wildlife Division chief Randy Miller, Wildlife Division law enforcement administrator James Lehman, Wildlife District 5 (southwest Ohio) director Todd Haines, and the agency’s human resources manager Michelle Ward-Tackett.

But this interpretation of favoring the defendants - and supported by Judge Gusweiler - is at the heart of Little’s objection.

"We need some case law on this because it is a novel issue," Little said.

"Obviously I am disappointed with the decision and disagree with it but I have a process to remedy and that is to take it before the 12th District Court of Appeals.”

As a result, says Little, an answer to this question alone could take several more months for the appeals court to hear the matter and then render its decision.

“I don’t expect a quick decision on this. It’s not on the fast track,” Little said.

“(The judge’s decision) could have gone either way and it’s difficult to make a decision without prior law; it’s hard, but I respectfully disagree and I have a remedy and that is to go to the appeals court,” Little said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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