Discipline was metered out to the five Ohio Division of Wildlife officers who each sent letters last winter to a federal judge requesting that the jurist exercise compassion when he sentences a former colleague on federal wildlife law violations.
Determining that the officers’ personal letters to the judge “brought discredit to the agency,” the Ohio Department of Natural Resources delivered identical letters of reprimand to each of the five officers, said a Natural Resources Department official.
These letters will remain in the officers’ personal files for one year, after which the documents will be expunged, the official said as well.
The five officers given the letters of reprimand were Eric Lamb, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County and who replaced Wright; James Carnes, state wildlife officer assigned to Highland County; Chris Gilkey, one-time state wildlife officer assigned to Adams County and now assigned to Meigs County; Rick Rogers, state wildlife officer assigned to Warren County; and Michael Ohlrich, state wildlife officer assigned to Clermont County.
Each officer was required to sign their respective document. And each of the five letters of reprimand were then witnessed by Thomas J. Donnelly, acting manager for the Wildlife Division’s District Four (southeast Ohio) office in Xenia.
The letters of reprimands also include a caveat that any future, similar, conduct will not be tolerated where “more severe discipline may be administered.”
The matter stemmed from the officers’ actions whereby they sent letters to Federal Court Judge Michael R. Barrett over a seven-day period in February.
Each wildlife officer requested of Barrett that he demonstrate leniency when sentencing Allan Wright, 45, the defrocked state wildlife officer who had been assigned to Brown County in southwest Ohio.
An internal investigation was launched once the letters of support became public knowledge.
At issue then was whether it was appropriate for the five officers to take it upon themselves to write letters on Wright’s behalf.
Along with this, was whether it was a breach of employee conduct to either identify that they had worked with Wright, were themselves a state wildlife officer, and with Ohlrich also using agency letterhead/stationary to make his plea to Barrett.
Wright pleaded guilty to violating the federal Lacey Act, the nation’s leading wildlife-protection law. He was sentenced July 17 by Barrett.
ODNR Notice of Written Reprimand
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn