Former DOW leader plea: ‘no contest’ to charges
Georgetown, Ohio — A former DNR Division of Wildlife supervisor has agreed to testify in pending criminal cases involving the former DOW chief and a DOW official who are among five DNR employees charged with wrongdoing.
DOW Field Supervisor Dave Warner agreed to assist the Brown County prosecutor’s office in its prosecutions of former Chief David Graham and District 5 Supervisor Todd Haines
Graham and Haines were indicted in Brown County on charges involving their alleged role in an investigation of a former wildlife officer who allowed an out-of-state game warden to hunt deer on an Ohio resident deer license. Their cases, along with three others, have been appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Warner’s cooperation in the prosecutions was part of a Nov. 19 no contest plea agreement in Brown County Common Pleas Court to misdemeanor charges of obstruction and unauthorized use of property.
Warner, who had been accused of hunting while on duty, was facing felony counts of theft in office, tampering with records and a misdemeanor charge of dereliction of duty.
Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little said she will recommend Warner be placed on community-control sanctions instead of jail time when he is sentenced Jan. 16.
“I am satisfied,” Little said. "He agreed to assist the state, testify truthfully, and make the state whole.”
Warner also agreed to repay restitution to the state of Ohio in the amount of $1,366.76, according to Bethany McCorkle, the DNR’s chief of communications.
Warner "will continue to tell the truth about what went on at the department," said his attorney, David Mesaros of Dayton.
In 2008, Warner was among seven hunters pictured in front of the Russellville, Ohio residence of former Brown County Wildlife officer Allan Wright, with seven harvested white-tailed deer, according to findings of an investigation conducted by the Ohio Inspector General, a state watchdog agency.
The photograph of Wright and Warner in partial ODNR field gear, was posted on a website called Trophy Rock, which according to the IG, is a company that produces a mineral supplement used by deer hunters to attract deer and increase antler growth.
Warner and Clinton County Wildlife Officer Matthew Roberts were indicted the same day the Ohio IG released findings of its investigation.
The DNR fired both officers as the result of pre-disciplinary hearings in which the officers were found guilty of dishonesty, neglect of duty and failure of good behavior.
In an interview with IG investigators in May, Wright said he often hunted with Warner while on duty. Wright also said he hunted deer, squirrels and turkeys numerous times while on duty without oversight.
Wright told investigators it was common for him and Warner to hunt wearing uniform pants after taking off their uniform shirts and gun belts in his garage. When finished hunting, they would put on their full uniforms in Wright’s garage, Wright said.
Asked by an investigator why Wright or other ODNR officers were not worried about hunting while on duty and claiming pay for those hours, Wright said, “unless Dave (Warner) would tell them or they would ask, they wouldn't know… There was no oversight.”
The IG investigation determined that Warner and Wright hunted while on duty in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and Roberts hunted while on duty in 2010.
Since the IG investigation, the ODNR now requires law enforcement officers in the field to update their status hourly either through voice or use of their mobile computer terminals, according to Richard Corbin, deputy director of the DNR.
In addition, the DNR has begun a process to ensure supervisors “carefully review and approve time and activity reports” of their officers, Corbin wrote the IG agency.