Friday, August 10, 2012

Wildlife chief says more officers' investigations are posible

Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody is expressing concern that more investigations into alleged misconduct by state wildlife officers may be forthcoming.

Zody made the remarks in an informal August 3 memo to a number of Ohio pro-sportsmen organizations.

The agency chief noted that Ground Zero for much of what has surfaced has originated in Wildlife District Five (southwest Ohio.)

Zody also reviewed some of the Wildlife Division's other activities, such as the appearance of Asian carp in the Ohio River and the status of this spring's wild turkey poult production.

Yet it is the matter of the affairs in Wildlife District Five that has garnered the most attention by sportsmen throughout the state.

Indicted July 19 were Wildlife Division field supervisor David Warner and Matthew Roberts, state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County. Both men work out of the Wildlife Division’s District Five office in Xenia.

Warner and Roberts were indicted in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony. Warner was also indicted for dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.

The charges stem from the pair’s alleged activity of hunting while on duty, and for allegedly turning in bogus time slips that supposedly showed they were on duty when they were allegedly hunting with former state wildlife officer Allan Wright, who had been assigned to Brown County.

Both men pleaded not guilty this week with a second court hearing scheduled for each officer later this month.

Here is the full text of Chief Zody's August 3 comments:

"Guys –

"I hope this will be the beginning of regular updates that I provide to you.  It has been brought to my attention by a couple of folks that the Division (meaning me) needs to do a better job of communicating with our stakeholders and keeping you informed of happenings in Columbus and around the state.

"My apologies if I have not met your expectations in this regard, and I will do my best to rectify the situation moving forward.

"As you all probably are well aware, we continue to face internal challenges with a few staff, particularly in Southwest Ohio in District 5. 

"I have attached a copy of an email I sent out last week to the troops following the latest.  Not much more to say there other than the investigation continues and unfortunately there may be more to come.

"I do ask that you and your organizations continue to support our officers and staff in our efforts to stay focused on fulfilling our mission and restoring honor and integrity to the Division.  It will be a long road, but we will get there.

"Duck and Goose season regulations will be announced soon, but I can tell it is looking very positive for both this year.

"Turkey hatch is looking good, but we were expecting better – right now, according to surveys and observation reports, the average poult to hen ratio is 3-1.  Like I said, good, but expected better.

"Legislative activity has been slow with summer recess and this being an election year, but I do want to bring to your attention HB 575, which would require the Division to issue free hunting and fishing licenses to any honorably discharged veteran, regardless of disability status (currently we issue free licenses to permanently and totally disabled vets). 

"Our conservative estimate is that this legislation could result in a loss of revenue to the division of between $4-5 million per year.  Thanks to USSA and the League for their early opposition and contacts with legislators.

"The State Fair has been very successful this year with big crowds and lots of interaction with the public.  We have an internal team working on a Marketing Plan that we should have in draft form to roll out to our stakeholders for review and input later this year. 

"Your participation will be welcome and critical to our success.

"We continue to a see a lot of turnover in Senior positions due to retirement – John Daugherty in D-2, Mark Hemming in D-4, Roger Knight from Lake Erie, and Dave Scott is leaving to go to the USFWS in Minneapolis next month. Lots of big shoes to fill.

"Those are some of the hot topics right now – just wanted to try to give you a quick update.

"As always, anytime you have a question or concerns – DO NOT hesitate to call me.  Trust me, I would welcome it.

"Take care,

"Chief Z."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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