Leadership of the Division of Wildlife indicted
If Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little gets her way then the stars of Wild Ohio may soon be playing a roll on Court TV as the grand jury handed out six indictments to the top leadership of the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) for an alleged cover up of criminal activity of a DOW wildlife officer.
According to the Office of the Inspector General and a staff report on the News Democrat website; David Graham, Chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife; Randy Miller, Assistant Chief of the Division of Wildlife; James Lehman, Law Enforcement Administrator for the Division of Wildlife; Michele Ward-Tackett, Human Resource Administrator for the Division of Wildlife; Todd Haines, Division of Wildlife District 5 Manager; and Brown County Wildlife Officer Allan Wright, were served with indictments last Thursday.
The indictments are a result of a 17 page report, issued March 10, on a four month investigation conducted by the State of Ohio Office of the Inspector General that found Division of Wildlife administrators "Committed wrongful acts or omissions by failing to properly investigate Officer Wright."
The investigation revealed that Brown County Officer Allan Wright wrongfully assisted a South Carolina non-resident in obtaining a fraudulent resident hunting license in 2006 using Wright's home address. The investigation also showed in 2001 that Wrights address "was also listed on a (hunting) license of a Michigan resident whom Wright knew." Additionally Wright admitted to checking in three deer killed by the South Carolina resident.
According to the investigation "Wright knowingly recorded a false address on the harvest report when he listed his (Wright's) address". The report also said that Wright was under investigation in 2007 by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources regarding trapping violations in South Carolina.
The report showed that the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 4 Law Office issued a memo dated April 25, 2007 to all District 4 officers that stated "In recent months the Office of Law Enforcement for the U. S. Fish & Wildlife (USFW) Service has been receiving requests for assistance from Officers around the State. All requests for assistance shall now go through the Law Enforcement Supervisor for approval." According to the report, on April 29, 2009, DOW Chief David Graham extended that same directive to all Ohio Wildlife Officers.
The Inspector General's investigation also reported that Chief Graham, Assistant Chief Miller, Human Resource Manager Ward-Tackett, and Law Enforcement Administrator Lehman, and D-5 Manger Haines failed to report Wright's alleged violations to the ODNR Director or ODNR Law Enforcement Administrator Mike Taylor as required by ODNR policy and the Governor's policy even though all admitted they were aware that providing false information was a violation of law. The Inspector General found "reasonable cause to believe an act of omission occurred."
In conclusion the Inspector General Report found that Officer Wright's act resulted in producing a fraudulent hunting license and produced another false document when Wright checked the deer killed when listing his home address which is clearly a violation of the Ohio Revised Code.
The report also found DOW administrators mishandled the investigation ignoring the criminal violation and also failed to report the suspected criminal activity to the Director of the ODNR as required.
During the course of the investigation the Inspector General found instances of potential criminal behavior related to the falsification of an Ohio hunting license and other related documents.
The conclusion of the report on the Office of Inspector General's investigation found Allan Wright helped a friend in South Carolina obtain a resident hunting license, and furthermore found Wildlife Administrators failed to investigate the deception as a criminal matter.
As a result of the investigation, according to the News Democrat website who credits the information obtained from the Brown County Court of Common Pleas, the following indictments were filed on April 2 by the grand jury.
Allan Wright, Wildlife Officer, charged with two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification for allegedly altering ODNR records in Brown County.
David Graham, Chief DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Randy Miller, Assistant Chief DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Michele Ward-Tackett, Human Resource Administrator DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Lames Lehman, Law Enforcement Administrator DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Todd Haines, District 5 Manager DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
According to the News Democrat website it is alleged that the DOW administrators named in the indictments hindered the discovery, apprehension, prosecution or conviction of Allan Wright or to assist Wright to benefit from the commission of crime by obstructing any person by means of force, intimidation or deception. The complicity charge states that each of the indicated officers had aided or abetted each other in committing their obstructing justice charge.
Allan Wright has been the Brown County Wildlife Officer for 16 years and was named National Wild Turkey Federation's Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2001 and was also named Brown County Officer of the Year in 2000 and received the Brown County Meritorious Service Award for exceptional service to law enforcement and the community. Wright was also on Bass Pro Shops Redhead Pro Staff and on Pro Staff for Ultimate Firearms.
For a report on the investigation, please visit: http://www.watchdog.ohio.gov/investigations/2009340.pdf
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