Cleared of any wrong-doing that they had hunted while on duty, 16 of the 18 Ohio Division of Wildlife officers were reinstated to their law-enforcement duties today, Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Among the officers returning to work today is Scott Denamen, the long-time agent assigned to Geauga County.
For the other two officers, one has since retired while the one's case has been turned over for a disciplinary hearing, officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said.
The matter began after the Ohio Inspector General issued a report Dec. 13 that alleged the 18 current or retired wildlife officers had hunted deer while on the clock, a violation of state ethics laws.
Immediately afterward the officers were reassigned to desk duty, surrendering their official vehicles, weapons and other tools of their trade.
Subsequently the Ohio Department of Natural Resources launched its own investigation, poring over the same documents, interviewing the officers and delving into what actually occurred.
The results of this investigation turned out to be largely the polar opposite of the Inspector General's examination.
“We determined that 16 of the 17 were eligible for immediate return to their law-enforcement duties,” said Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
McCorkle said it wasn't so much a case of the officers hunting while on duty, rather more of a documentation knot tied by the thread of one's office being both a patrol vehicle and home..
“These aren't your typical 9-to-5 jobs,” McCorkle said.
Aware of the challenges of working alone in a non-factory/non-office environment both the Natural Resources Department and the Wildlife Division launched an electronic check-in system for the state's wildlife officers.
This process was initiated in September 2012 and consists of requiring each officer while on patrol in his or her state-issued vehicle to press a “button” that sends a GPS signal identifying the exact location the agent is at, along with a time stamp.
“We see the benefits in this system in both improving accountability as well as for the safety of the officers,” McCorkle says.
McCorkle said also the department is studying whether and how to release the names of the other two wildlife officers, including the retiree as well as the one who will undergo a disciplinary hearing.
Here are the names of the Ohio Division of Wildlife officers who returned to duty today, Tuesday, Feb. 4: David Gilkey – Adams County; Brian Baker – Belmont County; Joshua Zientek – Butler County; Jeffrey Tipton – Champaign County; David Brown – Columbiana County (RETIRED); Nicholas Turner – Columbiana County; Matthew Smith – Defiance County; Roy Rucker – Fayette County/Gallia County; Brad Kiger – Franklin County; Scott Denamen – Geauga County; Troy Reimund – Hocking County; Jeremy Carter – Holmes County; Ryan Garrison – Mercer County; Brian Bury – Sandusky County; Brett Barnes – Stark County; Travis Abele – Vinton County; Brad Baaske – Wyandot County.