Two Ohio Division of Wildlife officers have been investigated by the Ohio Inspector General for infractions involving assisting Indiana conservation officers in obtaining Ohio resident fishing licenses.
Somewhat similar to the matter involving Allan Wright, the former state wildlife officer assigned Brown County, state wildlife officers Arron Ireland and Josh Zientek assisted the Indiana wildlife officers in obtaining resident Ohio fishing licenses.
Ireland is the state wildlife officer assigned to Butler County and Josh Zientek, now assigned as the state wildlife officer to Huron County.
The Inspector General was informed by former Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sean Logan about possible infractions.
Investigators began their work and the Ohio Inspector General’s office issued its report Thursday, Oct. 13.
For each case involving the specific wildlife officer, the Ohio Inspector General noted: “Accordingly, we find reasonable cause to believe a wrongful act or omission occurred in this instance.”
In an Oct. 13 press release, Ohio Deputy Inspector General Carl Enslen said: “Acting on allegations brought to the inspector general in 2010, the investigation found two Ohio Division of Wildlife officers helped Indiana conservation officials avoid paying for a more costly non-resident fishing license by falsifying Ohio residential addresses on their license applications.
“The investigation further revealed administrators at the Ohio Division of Wildlife failed to properly investigate and report suspected criminal activity involving employees as required under department policy and a governor directive.”
Both Ireland and Zientek were given a verbal reprimand in 2008 by Wildlife District Five (southwest Ohio) Manager, Todd Haines.
Haines is one of five current or former Wildlife Division top officials who remain under indictment for alleged state felony violations in regard to how they managed the matter involving officer Wright.
The case involving Haines’ and the other current and former Wildlife Division officials is pending before the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals in southwest Ohio.
Wright has subsequently been charged in federal court for alleged violation os the federal Lacey Act.
In his letter to the two other disciplined officers, Haines wrote: “You are hereby issued a verbal reprimand for failure of good behavior.
“Specifically, you assisted an out-of-state wildlife officer in obtaining a resident fishing license (NOTE: the word ‘hunting’ was crossed out and the word ‘fishing’ was handwritten in) in 2007. Although you had supervisor guidance to do so, this was against Division of Wildlife directive and should not be repeated again in the future.
“This memo will serve as a verbal reprimand and will be placed in your personal file for a period of twelve (1) months and then removed if there are no subsequent disciplined imposed during that period.
“It will also serve as a warning in the case of future violations, more severe discipline may be administered.”
Haines signed the Ireland and Zientek documents on Oct. 7, 2008 and the Wright verbal reprimand on Oct. 8, 2008.
However, the Ohio Inspector General’s report noted that “In the reprimand, Haines did not mention the officers ‘supervisor guidance’ was from a retired employee with no authority to grant permission (Exhibit 4).”
Natural Resources Department spokeswoman Laura Jones said the agency was aware of the investigation and “fully cooperated with the Ohio Inspector General’s Office.”
“We are currently reviewing the report and then we’ll see how we will be moving forward,” she said.
Both Ireland and Zientek declined to comment.
A posting of the Ohio Inspector Generals’ evidence documents is available online at http://watchdog.ohio.gov/investigations/2010_113x1-7.pdf.
A posting of the Ohio Inspector generals’ report is available online at http://watchdog.ohio.gov/investigations/2010_113.pdf.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn