A pair of legally besieged Ohio Division of Wildlife officers were not only fired by the agency they also won’t have the opportunity to hunt, trap or fish for one year.
Former Wildlife Division officers David Warner and Matthew Roberts plead “no contest” to charges they were hunting while on duty and then falsifying time sheets by writing they were working when they really were hunting.
Warner had been the field supervisor for the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio) Office, a position he was fired from by the Wildlife Division on Sept. 21.
Roberts was the state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County.
In each case the separation was made after the Natural Resources Department determined the men had violated state policy governing conduct while on duty.
Originally, Roberts and Warner were each charged in July for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony.
Warner was also originally indicted for dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.
The charges stem from the pair’s activity of hunting while on duty, and for 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.
Appearing in Brown County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday the two men saw the hammer of justice fall on their heads.
Warner received a 120-day suspended sentence, an one-year probation along with the loss of the opportunity to hunt, trap, or fish, for one year.
In Roberts case he receive one year of court-ordered probation, a 30-day suspended jail time and like Warner, Roberts cannot hunt, trap or fish for one year.
Also, both men must pay restitution to the state for the time they falsified being on duty when they were hunting.
However, this restitution applies only to the single day in which Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little wrote in the indictment.
For Warner this restitution amounts to $708.73 and for Roberts his required obligation is $353.10, Little said.
“The (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) will have to seek restitution for the rest,” Little said.
Little said also she is “satisfied” with the outcome, believing the punishment was “an appropriate resolution.”
That being said, Little would like to see the Natural Resources Department conduct “follow up” investigations to help ensure no other similar situations are lurking in the legal shadows.
In a related matter, Little will appear before the Ohio State Supreme Court on Tuesday to argue her case against five former and current Wildlife Division officials - often referred to as the “Brown County Five.”
These past and present officials each face felony charges but insist they have legal protection against self-incrimination via a public sector fire wall called the Garrity Rule.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn