No ‘charges’ made in PGC prez battle

By Jeff
Mulhollem

Editor

Harrisburg – There will be no Pennsylvania Game Commission
&#8220trial” for Commissioner Tom Boop to determine whether the
vote by four other commissioners to strip him of his board
presidency was valid, sources close to the controversy said in
early June.

No &#8220charges” were filed by the June 4 deadline that
Boop, of Northumberland County, deman-ded so he could formulate a
response to the 4-2 vote against him, taken in a special meeting
May 1.

If no &#8220trial” is held, the matter may be resolved,
according to the sources – who insisted on not being named to
protect them from legal and job actions – with apologies made all
around and a collective vow to move past the controversy that
threatens to deadlock agency business.

Boop has contended that the action was taken to silence his
opposition to the commission’s deer herd-reduction policy, but
other board members have said that it resulted from Boop’s failure
to lead the board and taking unauthorized actions.

Other board members were apparently enraged when Boop – abruptly
and without consulting other commissioners – asked a state
legislator to fund an independent audit of the commission’s
&#8220fatally flawed” deer-management program.

But if true, the no-‘trial’ resolution to the crisis begs the
question of who really is the president of the Game Commission now.
Is it Boop or Commissioner Roxane Palone, who was named president
after the board majority (of which she was a part) deposed him?

Perhaps significantly, the commission’s Web site still lists
Boop as board president. Palone, of Greene County, is listed as
vice president.

&#8220I’m not sure who is president,” admitted Boop’s
attorney, former Superior Court Judge Robert Graci, of the
Harrisburg legal firm of Eckert Seamans. &#8220It is a chicken
and an egg thing – did it even really happen?”

Game Commission press secretary Jerry Feaser wouldn’t comment on
whether the Web site listing Boop as president is accurate.
&#8220This is a board matter and the staff has no say or
involvement in it,” he said.

Graci would not reveal whether his client would be satisfied
with a simple apology from other board members. Some of them, such
as Commissioner Dan Hill and Commissioner Russ Schleiden, have said
that Boop threatened to sue them in a letter sent after the May 1
meeting. Hill, of Erie County, labeled that warning ”shameful.”

Both Graci and Hill, who is also an attorney, have speculated
that the commission could not really conduct a trial and that
charges in this case might not be appropriate. Graci called the
scenario &#8220unprecedented” among state agencies, and Boop
termed the proposed proceedings &#8220silly.”

&#8220We have had no contacts with opposing counsel
representing the other commissioners,” Graci said. &#8220Would
I like to see this matter resolved before the June 25-26 meeting? I
think everybody involved would like to see that, but at this point,
I don’t know what will happen.”

Commissioner Schleiden, of Centre County, didn’t deny that a
&#8220trial” has been ruled out, and he indicated that he would
be amenable to the &#8220apologies-and-move-on” strategy.

”But there were attorneys hired, so we have to wait and see what
is happening there,” he said. &#8220We didn’t request a trial –
that was requested by Tom (Boop). So we are waiting to see what
will transpire. I have no comment, but I always try to look on the
positive side of things.”

Graci, who pointed out that it is not his style &#8220to
negotiate in the newspapers,” wouldn’t say what would be a
satisfactory resolution to the controversy for his client. Neither
would he say whether Boop was demanding to continue as board
president.

But he did point out that neither he nor his client has received
the &#8220charges” against Boop. &#8220I don’t want to get
involved with talking about my discussions with my client or
talking about a possible negotiation strategy,” he said.

&#8220Will there be a ‘trial’ – I certainly hope not, but I
don’t know for sure. I don’t know what is going to transpire at the
meeting on June 25-26 – I don’t think anyone does. So far as I
know, nothing is different from what you reported before.”

In voting to depose Boop as president, commissioners went
against the stated warning of commission legal counsel Jason Raup,
who cautioned that they must give the board president &#8220due
process” considerations. Agency press secretary Feaser would not
say whether commissioners now regretted their actions, or whether
Graci’s involvement was intimidating other board members.

Commissioners Hill and Palone did not return phone calls for
this story.

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