Thursday, February 2, 2012

UPDATED 1: Indicted Wildlife Division official retires

Indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife law enforcement executive administrator Jim Lehman turned in his retirement papers Wednesday, says an official with the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Lehman had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last week following a legal loss before Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals.

Still on unpaid administrative leave are the Wildlife Division's Human Resource Manager Michele Ward-Tackett and District Five (southwest Ohio) Manager Todd Haines.

Lehman is one of five former or current Wildlife Division officials who are under felony indictment in Brown County Common Pleas Court.

The five lost a court battle with Brown County prosecutor Jessica Little who challenged a lower court ruling that said the officials were protected by the so-called “Garrity Rule.”

This legal fiat protects certain government employees from testifying on matters if they believe that by doing would jeopardize their jobs.

Bethany McCorkle, the Natural Resources Department’s deputy chief of communications, said since Lehman has at least 30 years of employment with the Wildlife Division he was eligible for retirement.

Lehman's on-going legal issues do not impact his retirement income, McCorkle said also.

McCorkle said as well that a replacement for Lehman has not yet been named.

Also, says McCrokle, neither Haines nor Ward-Tackett are eligible to retire. Haines has 24 years with the natural Resources Department while Ward-Tackett has 23 years of service.

To retire each needs a minimum of 30 years of service, McCorkle said.

However, law enforcement officers can retire after either 25 years of service or 48 years of age, McCorkle said as well.

This story will be up-dated as additional information becomes available.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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