Allan Wright, the former state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, has been reinstated to paid administrative leave though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources still refuses to issue a paycheck.
This action by the Natural Resources Department has prompted the Fraternal Order of Police - the union that represents Ohio Division of Wildlife commissioned officers - to file a grievance against the Natural Resources Department.
Wright was placed on unpaid administrative leave upon his federal indictment for alleged violations of federal fish and game laws.
He is at the heart of an issue that began several years ago when Wright allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address to obtain a resident Ohio hunting license, among other matters.
That activity subsequently set off a chain reaction of legal issues that have since enveloped others within the Ohio Division of Wildlife who either have retired or else remain aboard the agency.
As positioned by the Natural Resources Department, the laws governing unpaid and paid administrative leave are spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code. Relating to Wright these points are, and as noted by a spokeswoman for the agency:
Per the ORC, a period of unpaid administrative leave may not exceed 2 months:
124.388 [First of two versions] Administrative leave.
(A) An appointing authority may, in its discretion, place an employee on administrative leave with pay. Administrative leave with pay is to be used only in circumstances where the health or safety of an employee or of any person or property entrusted to the employee’s care could be adversely affected. Compensation for administrative leave with pay shall be equal to the employee’s base rate of pay. The length of administrative leave with pay is solely at the discretion of the appointing authority, but shall not exceed the length of the situation for which the leave was granted. An appointing authority may also grant administrative leave with pay of two days or less for employees who are moved in accordance with section 124.33 of the Revised Code.
(B) An appointing authority may, in its discretion, place an employee on administrative leave without pay for a period not to exceed two months, if the employee has been charged with a violation of law that is punishable as a felony. If the employee subsequently does not plead guilty to or is not found guilty of a felony with which the employee is charged or any other felony, the appointing authority shall pay the employee at the employee’s base rate of pay, plus interest, for the period the employee was on the unpaid administrative leave.
The Natural Resources spokeswoman further said in an email:
“(The) ODNR did not move administratively because it needed to wait to see how the federal criminal case was going to play out. Mr. Wright had his pre-disciplinary hearing on October 25. Once a report on that hearing is written, it will include a recommendation for action.
“Mr. Wright filed a grievance during this process and because of that we are bound by his Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contract to put him back on paid administrative leave.”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn