Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Indicted Wildlife Division officials back to work

The two remaining Ohio Division of Wildlife officials under indictment in the Brown County Five affair returned to work today following 60 days of unpaid administrative leave.

And while Michele Ward-Tackett and Todd Haines could have been placed on paid administrative leave - as required by the Ohio Revised Code - the Ohio Department of Natural Resources decided to let them work instead.

Ward-Tackett had been the Wildlife Division’s Human Resources manager while Haines was the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio) manager. They are the only two Wildlife Division officials who remain as employees.

However, while Ward-Tackett and Haines are working they both remain on short leads.

Ward-Tackett is reporting to the Natural Resources Department’s human resources section while Haines is working with the Wildlife Division’s wildlife administration wing.

The agency believes that putting the two back to work at the Natural Resources Department’s Columbus headquarters campus complex was “a reasonable alternative” to putting them on paid administrative leave where they would draw a paycheck but contribute nothing to the work flow, says Natural Resources Department’s deputy chief of communications Bethany McCorkle.

“Both employees (have) reported to the ODNR’s main office for work and will have duties similar to what they’ve been doing but won’t be involved in any managerial duties,” said McCorkle. “They will be supervised closely.”

Not impacted by the Natural Resources Department’s back-to-work order are the other three indicted individuals, each of whom has since retired from the Wildlife Division.

These individuals include now-retired former Wildlife Division chief David Graham, now-retired former assistant chief Randy Miller, and now-retired former agency law enforcement executive administrator James Lehman.

Each was indicted on single counts of obstruction of justice and complicity to obstructing justice in Brown County Court of Common Pleas, having been charged about two years ago.

Their collective case is winding its way through the state’s court system with the latest legal salvo having recently been fired across the bow of the Ohio Supreme Court.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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