In a tersely worded document, Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Scott Zody spelled out the agency's reaction to last week's Ohio Inspector General's report on alleged charges that up to 18 current or retired law enforcement officers improperly or potentially illegally hunted deer while still on the clock.
As previously reported here, the Ohio Inspector General's office launched the investigation following a similar look at the activities of two Wildlife Division officers working out of southwest Ohio.
In those cases it was concluded that these two commissioner officers had hunted deer while at the same time completing documentation that they were working, thus violating agency policy and state law.
Going a step further the Inspector General wanted to know if these two cases were anomalies or part of a broader pattern of potentially unethical or illegal activity by other Wildlife Division employees.
While some of the documentation showed that a deer was taken while an individual was on duty other data did not support that occurrence, the report says.
Likewise, some officers later changed their time slips to reflect they were not on duty at the time they killed a deer, the report also says.
“As a result of previous investigations, it has been determined that many wildlife officers did not follow ODNR communication policy of marking on duty at the beginning of their shift, off duty at the end of their shift, or provide hourly updates of the their status.
“Also, the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not audit or compare the number of hours marked as being on duty,” said the report on page Five.
The officers whom the Ohio Inspector General alleges hunted or killed a deer either while on the clock or else made errors in accounting for their time include: David Gilkey; Brian Baker; Roy Rucker; Troy Reimund; Jeremy Carter; Ryan Garrison; Brian Bury; Brett Barnes; Travis Abele; Brad Baske; Joshua Zientek; Jeffrey Tipton; David Brown; Nicholas Turner; Matthew Smith; Brad Kiger; Scott Denamen; James Carnes.
In all, the report says, 11 of the officers “clearly harvested deer during their on-duty hours.”
And 12 officer harvested deer, “if they worked the number of hours they claimed,” says the report on pages 13 and 14.
“The total number of deer harvesting instances would be 23,” says the report also.
A second group, says the report, “did not follow the ODNR communication policy,” further citing that the agency is lax in its accounting of hours worked, when officers sign in and sign out.
“This lack of accountability and supervision along with the wildlife officers' compliance with the (ODNR's) communication policy is also an officer safety issue,” the report notes.
Here is the December 16 statement issued by Zody in response to the Inspector General's report:
“As most of you are aware by now, on Friday afternoon (Dec. 13.- ed) the Inspector General released a Report of Investigation alleging that 17 current and 1 retired Wildlife law enforcement personnel hunted deer while on duty during the 2009-2010 and/or the 2010-2011 deer hunting seasons.
“Effective immediately, the officers in question were placed on restricted duty status.
“This means that they will still be reporting to work, but in the interim will not be able to perform law enforcement duties until further notice and an internal investigation can be completed. At this point, it is unknown how long a period that may be.
“We are taking steps to ensure that coverage for law enforcement can be maintained in the interim, with particular attention to the upcoming deer muzzleloader season in early January.
“What does this mean?
“At this point, it is important to remember that these are allegations, and each of the accused will receive their full due process rights that are afforded to them. At the conclusion of that, appropriate actions will be taken based upon the outcomes.
“Since we became aware of the investigation proactive steps have already been taken, starting in 2012, to improve accountability and oversight for all Division employees and supervisors.
“If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn