Ohio Wildlife Officers Indicted
By Larry S. Moore
The situation with the indictments of the Brown County Wildlife Officer plus the Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief, Assistant Chief, District 5 (Xenia) Manager, Law Enforcement Administrator and Human Resources Administrator is widely reported. (See links below and the Buckeye Forum) There are lots of questions, rumors, counter-rumors and confusion over the case.
First, a full disclosure is in order. I am on a friendly first-name basis with most of the people indicted. I've only met the Brown County Wildlife Officer. I regularly communicate with the Chief, Assistant Chief and District 5 Manager. I've hunted with several of them and have hunted on farm property owned by the Assistant Chief Randy Miller. Miller has been most helpful in allowing me to bring youth or adult novice hunters to his farm. I worked with Law Supervisor Jim Lehman during Buckeye Firearms Association's efforts to get concealed carry for hunters in Ohio. Lehman made the actual proposal to the Ohio Wildlife Council.
I've spent some time communicating with retired Division of Wildlife employees at various levels over the last several weeks in an attempt to sort the truth from the rumors. I'm not going to quote them or use their names since at the time I talked to them I wasn't planning on writing about the indictments. Here's what I've been able to determine:
- A whistle-blower went to the Inspector General's office with the information. That started the investigation and resulting charges from the Brown County prosecutor.
- It was a common and accepted practice to extend hunting licenses, at resident costs, to wildlife officers from other states. At one time, actual reciprocal agreements existed.
- Sometime in the 1990s the practice was discouraged. I do not know if the agreements and policy remained in effect. That will, no doubt, come out in court.
- Normally such licenses were handled directly through the Columbus or District offices.
- Some of my contacts have defended the actions and the resulting administrative discipline. Others support the investigation claiming that there should be criminal charges.
- The whole thing is a mess and may very well get worse before it is over.
I am not going to address the various rumors I've heard. For just about every rumor, there has been another one to counter the first. Some are vicious toward the Division personnel; some are directed at the Brown County prosecutor; some are directed toward the unnamed informant and even other groups within Brown County. I have no way to determine any reportable facts.
Here is what can be determined:
- Division personnel are on paid administrative leave.
- The investigation is costing a lot of money. It is costing the state money; it is costing the Division of Wildlife and ultimately sportsmen money; and it is costing Brown County money. The amount of money spent far exceeds the costs of any licenses involved, at least to this point in time.
- Assistant Chief Jim Marshall is the ranking Division person in the Columbus office. Marshall has delayed his retirement until the indictments are resolved.
- A complete investigation and determination of the facts in the case is needed without all the rest of the rumors.
- Sportsmen must be assured the Division of Wildlife is operating properly. I believe it is and was. However, the case is not about my beliefs. I've often written that I believe the Division was a model agency for constituent communications and for state government listening to the people. That image has likely been damaged. How severe the damage is remains to be seen. The Division personnel must work to restore that trust once this case is closed.
We need the wheels of justice and the court system to move quickly. I hope my friends will be found not guilty and the situation closed. Whatever the verdicts, sportsmen need the Division of Wildlife to have leadership in place. The leadership is needed for the projects, programs, wildlife and conservation efforts they provide and the stewardship of our natural resources which is their mission.
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award and 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year. Mr. Moore also serves as Greene County Republican Central Committee Member.
Brown County News-Democrat - Hunting license falsification leads to felony charges
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Ohio wildlife officer, top Columbus officials charged in phony hunting license sale
Dayton Daily News -
Wildlife officials suspended in hunting license case