By Gary Garth
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is attracting a wealth of unwanted media attention from a report released last week by the state’s inspector general.
The 59-page report, the result of a seven-month investigation, accuses former Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett and several other high-ranking officials of misconduct ranging from the disturbing to the silly.
Gassett, who joined the department in 1999 as the deer and elk biologist and was promoted to wildlife division director in 2001 and commissioner in 2005, resigned in September.
He declined on advice of legal counsel to be interviewed by the inspector general’s office — the only wildlife agency employee who refused to answer questions.
Gassett was accused of using agency employees, equipment and supplies for his personal benefit. Several other officials were cited for what would generally be seen as minor violations, including providing free fish for stocking in private ponds, approving or conducting private work on agency property and using state-owned tools for personal work.
In a couple of instances, an employee used an agency shop and tools to work on gear owned by his supervisors. In another, the agency supplied the chemical Rotenone to Gassett for use on his property.
There’s plenty more. The report goes on for 59 pages.
But in my view the most disturbing part of the report was the revelation of “violations by commission members in reserving hunting days and duck blinds for themselves at the Ballard Wildlife Management Area.”
The commissioners are appointed by the governor to oversee the Fish and Wildlife Department, including hiring the overall commissioner (the position Gassett filled) and setting all hunting and fishing regulations. They should be above reproach. Using that position to pluck choice hunting spots from public use is nothing if not abuse of power. More....