The Ohio Division of Wildlife is beginning to unravel at the seams as new allegations of 18 wildlife officers deer hunting while on duty have been named in a just released report by the Ohio Inspector General’s (I.G.) office. Among the 18 officers named are former Adams County Wildlife Officer Chris Gilkey and Highland County Wildlife Officer James Carnes.
An earlier investigation released last year found former Brown County Wildlife Officer Allen Wright, Wildlife Supervisor David Warner, and Clinton County Officer Matthew Roberts had deer hunted while on duty. Each lost their job with the Division of Wildlife. The Inspector General, suspecting these were not isolated cases, launched an agency wide investigation of time keeping records of the employees at the Division of Wildlife who reported harvesting deer during 2009 and 2010 season. As a result the I.G. found 18 wildlife officers were either on duty while engaged in deer hunting, or off-duty and falsified records to obtain pay they were not entitled to receive. Those officers named in the report are suspected of harvesting 23 deer while on duty.
Wildlife officers are required to radio in when going on and off duty, maintain hours worked each day and the time an officer begins and ends his work day, and also required to total hours worked and total hours worked each week. Furthermore, as pointed out in previous investigations, many wildlife officers did not follow ODNR communication policies of marking on and off duty hours or provide updates of their status. Also, the Division of Wildlife does not audit the number of hours claimed against the hours marked down as being on duty. The report says many of the officer’s on-duty hours do not match the number of hours they claimed to have worked.
Other officers named in the report were Belmont County Officer Brian Baker, Butler County Officer Joshua Zientek, Champaign County Officers David Brown and Nicholas Turner, Defiance County Officer Matthew Smith, Fayette County Officer Roy Rucker, Franklin County Officer Brad Kiger, Gallia County Officer Roy Rucker, Geauga County Officer Scott Denamen, former Hocking County Officer Troy Reimund, Holmes County Officer Jeremy Carter, Mercer County Officer Ryan Garrison, Sandusky County Officer Brian Bury, Stark County Officer Brett Batnes, Vinton County Officer Travis Abele, and Wyandot County Officer Brad Baaske.
The report goes on to say the lack of supervision along with the failure of wildlife officer’s compliance with the communication policy is also an officer safety issue. According to the ODNR the wildlife officers were re-assigned to administrative duties which typically mean the officers turn in their vehicle, gun and badge. Discipline will be determined by an internal investigation. The I. G. report was forwarded to prosecuting attorneys in each of the counties named.
For a copy of the report go to http://watchdog.ohio.gov/.