Ohio wildlife officers face multiple charges

2010-04-05T21:15:00Z Ohio wildlife officers face multiple chargesBy MISTY MAYNARD, Staff Writer Ledger Independent
April 05, 2010 9:15 pm  • 

GEORGETOWN, Ohio -- Six employees of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were indicted Friday by a Brown County grand jury on charges ranging from tampering with records and falsification to obstructing justice.

Prompting the charges is an incident that allegedly occurred between Nov. 5 and Dec. 30, 2006. It was between these dates that Allan Wright, wildlife officer for Brown County, allegedly falsified records kept by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by allowing a South Carolina officer to use Wright's home address in Brown County when purchasing a hunting license, said Mike Shelton, chief of legislative services for ODNR.

By using Wright's address, the South Carolina officer, identified as Eric Vaughn, purchased an in-state hunting license rather than an out-of-state license. A in-state license costs $19, while an out-of-state license is $125, Shelton said.

Shelton said an internal investigation was completed by ODNR administrators following the 2006 incident and a verbal reprimand was issued to Wright. However, by failing to refer the case for prosecution, five administrators "ignored the criminal violation of falsification," according to a report of investigation issued by the State of Ohio's Office of the Inspector General. According to the report, the basis for the investigation was a confidential informant who filed a complaint with the OIG on Sept. 30, 2009, two years after the verbal reprimand was issued.

Wright has been charged with two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification.

Division of Wildlife Chief David Graham, Law Enforcement Administrator James Lehman, Human Resources Administrator Michele Ward, District 5 Manager Todd Haines and Assistant Chief of ODNR Division of Wildlife Randy Miller were each indicted on one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice each.

According to the report of investigation, administrators "said that they never recognized or considered Wright's actions could be criminal and decided to handle the matter as a policy investigation."

"During Wildlife's investigation, Officer Wright claimed that this is a common practice and supervisors approved or had knowledge of Wildlife officers providing resident hunting licenses to nonresidents," according to the report. "No one from Wildlife ever verified Wright's claims that the practice was widespread. In fact, we found that this claim is not true."

Administrators classified Wright's violation as a "failure of good behavior for disobeying an unspecified division directive and issued him a verbal reprimand," according to the report.

"We found there was not agency directive prohibiting the issuance of a resident license to a nonresident until October 2008, well after this violation occurred," according to the report. "The more appropriate classification of dishonesty by willfully falsifying an official document was not considered. Wildlife administrators also violated the governor's and ODNR policy by failing to report suspected illegal activity to the ODNR director or his designee."

As of Monday, Shelton said all of the six indicted remained at work and have not been placed on any kind of leave.

Shelton said he is not aware of any charges filed against the South Carolina officer. According to the report, it was Wright's idea to put his home address on Vaughn's license application to allow him to receive a resident hunting license.

The OIG made two recommendations in the report, which ODNR has six days to respond to with a plan.

The first recommendation is that ODNR update its suspected illegal activity policy to mirror the Governor's Procedures for Notification of Employee Wrongdoing and/or Suspected Illegal Activity.

The second recommendation is that ODNR should internally review actions of all employees involved to determine whether their conduct warrants further administrator action or training.

Shelton said no action has yet been taken on the recommendations.

Tampering with records is a third-degree felony, while falsification is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Obstructing justice and complicity to obstruct justice are both fifth-degree felonies.

Also indicted Friday:

-- Misty Jones, two counts nonsupport of dependents, a fifth-degree felony.

-- Brian Tabor, nonsupport of dependents.

-- Raymond Baker, nonsupport of dependents.

-- Kimberly Goldfuss, nonsupport of dependents.

-- Robert Bohl, nonsupport of dependents.

-- Jack E. Hafner, illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, a third-degree felony, and illegal manufacture of drugs, a second-degree felony.

-- Lance J. Rich, improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony.

-- Charles W. Faul, felonious assault with a specification and three counts felonious assault, all second-degree felonies, vehicular assault, a fourth-degree felony, and two counts endangering children, a first-degree misdemeanor.

-- Fred E. Pettit Jr., domestic violence, a third-degree felony, and rape, a first-degree felony.

Contact Misty Maynard at misty.maynard@lee.net or call 606-564-9091, ext. 272.

For more area news, visit www.maysville-online.com.

Copyright 2015 Ledger Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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