State wildlife officers from 18 counties are on desk duty in district offices, following an investigation by the Ohio Inspector General’s Office. The office issued a report of that investigation on Friday, Dec. 13.
The 18, including three from central Ohio, are accused of hunting deer while they were on duty and falsifying time sheets.
“The timekeeping records … contained conflicting information which showed wrongful activity: either the employee was on-duty while engaged in deer hunting activities, or off-duty and falsifying work records to obtain pay they were not entitled to receive,” an Ohio Inspector General’s Office press release said.
Officers Brad Kiger from Franklin County, Jeff Tipton from Champaign County and Roy Rucker from Fayette County are among the 18 named. Madison County’s Matt Teders is not on the list.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Bethany McCorkle said the agency will conduct a thorough and unbiased internal investigation of the accusations.
“They (officers) will give us their sides of the story,” McCorkle said.
In the meantime, the 18 are assigned to administrative duties apart from law enforcement. Other commissioned officers, including supervisors and investigators, will take their place in the field, McCorkle said.
The Ohio Inspector General’s Office report grew out of a 2012 probe into Brown County Officer Allan Wright and supervisor David Warner. Both were pictured among a group of hunters who harvested deer in 2008. Both were in uniform at the time, but had submitted time sheets that claimed they were on the job.
The Ohio Inspector General’s Office investigation revealed a second Brown County officer, Matt Roberts, also took a deer while on duty in 2010.
As a result of the Brown County revelations, the Ohio Inspector General’s Office began looking into the at-work activities of division of wildlife employees statewide.
Investigators compared the time sheets of 490 employees against deer check station data for 2009-10. Hunters are required to record the time and location of their kills.
Twenty-six, mostly county officers and supervisors who track their own hours, were suspected of hunting while on the job. They received letters from the Ohio Inspector General’s Office. Eight responded, but would not agree to an interview.
The 18 who did not respond are named in the report.
In addition to Kiger, Tipton and Rucker, they are:
County officers Scott Denamen (Geauga), Jeremy Carter (Holmes), Brian Bury (Sandusky), Brett Barnes (Stark), David Gilkey (Adams), Brian Baker (Belmont), Joshua Zientek (Butler), David Brown and Nicholas Turner (Columbiana), Matthew Smith (Defiance), James Carnes (Highland), Troy Reimund (Hocking), Ryan Garrison (Mercer), Travis Abele (Vinton) and Brad Baske (Wyandot). Brown is now retired.
Prosecuting attorneys in several Ohio counties have been provided the report of investigation for further consideration: Adams, Belmont, Butler, Champaign, Columbiana, Defiance, Fayette, Franklin, Gallia, Geauga, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Mercer, Sandusky, Stark, Vinton and Wyandot.