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Struttin’ Time:

More of the same at Fish & Wildlife

I had rather be writing about something happy or funny, but I told you several weeks ago that I would look into what was once again going on with the Kentucky Department for Fish & Wildlife Resources.

This is not a pretty story now, nor has it been for years, but it seems to be getting worse. I have always been told that “nobody is above the law,” but it looks as though the Fish & Wildlife department is just that.

Last month, State Auditor Mike Harmon called for a change in the culture at Fish & Wildlife after Harmon’s office uncovered numerous violations of state and federal law in how the agency handled public money, to the tune of over one million dollars. The audit also found that more than $20,000 was spent on pre-paid debit cards for hunting education program volunteers. Some of this money came from federal money, which is against federal law.

Harmon said the department needed better transparency and accountability in the future. On December 21, 2018, Don Parkinson, the secretary of the Cabinet for Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage, which the Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources is under, said steps were being taken and include appointing new leadership, and they are going to be guided by “values of integrity, accountability, transparency, and resource stewardship.” Then, on January 7, Parkinson announced the hiring of the man who was reviewing the applications for the new leadership jobs, Rich Storm of Carlisle.

Early last year, two supervisors a Fish & Wildlife were charged by a state ethics panel with interfering with an investigation and then- Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Jimmy B. Bevins was charged with obstructing legal duck hunting. According to Jim Strader, who hosts a talk show on WHAS radio in Louisville, the Department is stacking the deck to keep the new leadership from making the necessary changes. The entire selection process of Storm, a Fish & Wildlife Department insider, showed a flagrant disregard for the state’s outdoors sporting community, Strader said.

Some of Kentucky’s sportsmen are publicly protesting Storm’s hiring from within, saying that Harmon’s critical audit, which is only the latest in a series of problems at Fish & Wildlife, is clear evidence that changes are needed.

If we allow the Department to go on as it is, you and me are in for a rocky ride. We need to form our battle lines now. I say it is time to stand and fight. Write or call in protest to our District 7 commissioner, Paul Horn of Prestonsburg. His number is 606-477-0923. His email address is paulhorn@bigsandybb.com. Tell him how you feel.

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