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Top wildlife official is named in ethics complaint filed by Louisville attorney



FRANKFORT

The head of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources agency has been accused of using his position to benefit a private company he created two years ago, according to a complaint released Tuesday.

Louisville attorney Ballard Rogers made that claim and other allegations against Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett in a 15-page letter.

Executive Branch Ethics Commission Executive Director John Steff en said the complaint will be presented to commission members at their next meeting, which is slated for March 19.

Gassett said in a statement that there were “multiple factual inaccuracies in the complaint.”

“But both myself and the department will be glad to address them and cooperate with the ethics commission should it decide to look into this matter,” he said.

In the letter, Rogers said Gassett formed a private company called Southern Wildlife Resources, which Rogers claims gets paid by landowners for many of the same services that the state wildlife commission does for free.

“This presents an enormous conflict of interest,” Rogers said.

At Gassett’s request, the ethics commission issued an advisory opinion in 2007, saying no conflict of interest would exist as long as Gassett received no outside compensation for work that falls within his normal responsibilities as head of the state wildlife agency.

In the letter, Rogers made a litany of other allegations against Gassett and members of the wildlife commission, including misuse of state property and abuse of power.

Rogers said some of the allegations in the letter came from unidentified employees of the wildlife agency. Others, he said, were based on unverified second hand accounts that should be investigated by the appropriate government agencies because “there’s been a history there of using public resources for personal gain.”


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