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Ex-DOW cops can’t hunt as part of sentence for hunting on duty

Posted on January 31, 2013

Georgetown, Ohio — Two former DNR Division of Wildlife officials employees were ordered to pay restitution to the DNR for hunting while on duty as part of their sentences Jan. 16 in Brown County Common Pleas Court.

Former DOW District 5 field supervisor David Warner previously pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business and unauthorized use of property. Former Clinton County Wildlife Officer Matthew Roberts had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of property.

Warner must repay the DNR $708.56 in restitution, according to county Prosecutor Jessica Little. In addition, Warner received a suspended 120-day jail sentence, had his hunting license suspended for one year and placed under one year of community control.

Roberts was ordered to pay the DNR $353.10 in restitution, Little said. In addition, Roberts was received a suspended 30-day jail sentence, had his hunting license suspended for one year, and was placed on one year of community control.

Both Warner and Roberts were fired as the result of criminal and administrative investigations by the Ohio Inspector General and DNR into hunting while on duty, triggered by a citizen’s complaint. The probe resulted in Brown County initially filing felony charges against the former officers.

The investigation revealed Warner hunted with other DNR officials in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Roberts was found to have hunted on duty in 2009 and 2010.

A DNR investigation concluded Warner and Roberts hunted on duty, used state equipment for transportation and submitted false documents to cover up improper behavior.

Warner “had an obligation as a public employee, supervisor and leader to ensure this behavior did not take place – instead he was a willing and integral part of the activity and related-cover-up,” DNR Deputy Director Richard Corbin wrote as part of an administrative investigation last year.

Investigators learned during Warner’s investigation hunting on duty was a past practice within District 5 in southwest Ohio.

Warner, Roberts and former Brown County Wildlife Officer Allan Wright would “dress down” for hunting on duty by changing out their uniform shirts and gun belts at Wright's residence and would then use personal vehicles to hunt on duty.

They dressed down in case they received a call and had to report if necessary, according to DNR investigation documents obtained through Ohio public records laws.

Wright pleaded guilty to unrelated federal wildlife charges and was fired by the DNR. As part of his plea, Wright is required to cooperate with federal and state investigators.

Warner told Corbin that former Chief David Graham hunted with him in 2009 and recalled another occasion when Graham met Wright and Warner in 2006 or 2007 during the week of deer gun season for a hunt.

“(Warner) recalled that he drove his state truck and wore his uniform that day as well,” Corbin wrote. “(Warner) believes that that was the time when Graham made the comment that they deserved an opportunity to hunt since they worked so hard.”

Corbin concluded Warner “made a mockery of his responsibility in allowing his subordinates, both officers Allan Wright and Matthew Roberts, to hunt on duty with him.

“By approving their false time and activity reports and his own, he permitted a blatant misuse of public resources,” Corbin wrote.

Warner maintained he was not a thief or liar; that what he had done was the result of “what I have been taught up through the ranks,” he told Corbin during an interview. “I have had my superiors standing there …to not tell me ‘Hey this is wrong. We need to fix it; we can't do this that way,’ and we are going to take a blow for it here.”

“I feel like I have been run over by a train so somebody could save their hind end for stuff they did,” Warner told Corbin.

Roberts told Corbin that officers were told to report “straight 8s” across the reporting period and to divide 24 hours of overtime allotted to them “as they saw fit” within a two-week time period, according to DNR administrative findings.

Roberts felt he was not hunting on state time since he was putting in more hours than he was being paid for and he was hunting with Warner, his supervisor, Wright and Graham, the division chief, according to the DNR findings.

Corbin concluded Roberts engaged in personal activities while on active-pay status, and was remorseful, but “he has not explained driving the state wildlife truck and wearing his uniform to the hunt each year.

“If he really did work more hours earlier in the week, why didn't he accurately report them, take the time back on the day of the hunt and drive his own vehicle to the hunting site?” Corbin wrote.

Roberts told Corbin and other investigators “it made me feel good” when invited to hunt with Wright and other DNR officers.

“Allan was an icon down there (in Brown County),” Roberts told the investigator. “He’s been there so long he had all the good places to hunt. He had connections here and there.”

“I was never led to believe I was doing something wrong,” Roberts told Corbin.

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