Allan Wright, former Ohio Division of Wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, has “converted” his scheduled federal court appearance originally set for Feb. 22 to a scheduled plea appearance at 9 a.m., Feb. 24 before federal district court judge Michael R. Barrett, said a federal court clerk today.
Wright is at the apex of a long-running matter that has also legally enveloped five current and retired Wildlife Division officials.
By way of review, Wright is under indictment for felony and misdemeanor violations of the federal government’s Lacey Act.
Wright agree to state complaints that in 2006 he allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address to obtain a resident state hunting license.
He subsequently was given a written reprimand which was eventually expunged. That action set in legal motion charges being brought against five current or retired Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.
However, Wright had been reinstated to his Wildlife Division post, only to be placed on unpaid administrative leave in August when he was charged in federal court for the alleged Lacy Act infractions.
Based on Ohio law, Wright remained on that status for a two-month period before being elevated to paid administrative leave, though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources continues to refuse to pay Wright his wages.
In a one-page letter dated Oct. 28, 2011 then-interim Natural Resources Director (and now the Wildlife Division chief) Scott A. Zody wrote:
“As a result of your recent per-disciplinary hearing held on October 25, 2011, you were found guilty of violating the following provisions of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Disciplinary Policy:
* B. Dishonesty - (2) Willfully falsifying... any official document.
* D. Failure of Good Behavior - (4) Misuse of and/or carelessness with state property....
* Commissioned Officers: A. Law Enforcement - (1) Violation of Uniformed Officer’s Code of Conduct.
“Therefore, you are being removed from your Wildlife Officer position with the ODNR-Division of Wildlife effective the date of your receipt of this letter.”
Wright was also charged with the federal counts.
Meanwhile, the cases against the five Wildlife Division officials has returned to Brown County Common Pleas court following a recent state appellate court ruling favoring Brown County prosecutor Jessica Little.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn