The ink was just barely dry on last week’s Struttin’ Time when the Lexington Herald-Leader brought the misconduct of our Department of Fish and Wildlife to its pages.
While I have written about this very subject from time to time, some of this edition of Struttin’ Time will be from the Herald- Leader so I will give it credit from the start.
Who’s in charge?, the headline read!! There are way too many questions about Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The first, and most important: exactly who is responsible for the agency? It wasn’t clear when at a meeting last week, the legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee was trying to sort out why it was seeing for the first time the contract under which Fish and Wildlife’s well paid commissioner works.
That commissioner, Jonathan Gassett, receives $134,000 in base pay, another $50,000 in benefits, and other payments not to exceed a total of $218,000. This contract wasn’t approved by the whole commission, but only its chairman without any input from the rest of the commission
Gassett has been on the job since 2008, and his bosses had never seen his contract? He operates a state government department that has an annual budget of more than $40 million with 500 employees, enforces our wildlife laws, and manages over a million acres of public lands, and nobody had even saw his contract?
Last year it was reported that Gassett has spent $71,000 on just travel since 2008, the most of any executive in the Commonwealth. To put this in our terms so we can all understand, he has all this power, unchecked, I might add, and operates in the dark, while the Letcher County Kids Days Committee operates on the front burner with everything it does. Its books can be seen by anyone during regular business hours, just ask!
If a small committee operates like it does, why shouldn’t a state department do so? Do we have another Richie Farmer type department running our Fish and Wildlife?
I am calling for a full investigation into what is going on. I will keep you in the loop.