Enforcement captain fired; she says retired

St. Paul – There’s more fallout in the wake of a law enforcement
conference that’s sparked two investigations and led to the
retirement of the DNR’s chief conservation officer.

The DNR announced last week it fired Capt. Cathy Hamm, a
regional enforcement supervisor in the metro area, in part due to
misuse of public funds, and placed DNR_Deputy Commissioner Laurie
Martinson on three days unpaid leave for “inadequate review of a
special expense authorization.”

Hamm, though, disputes she was fired and says she actually
retired at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15. A DNR statement that was
sent out last Thursday says Hamm was discharged from employment on
Oct. 15.

“You can’t fire someone that’s retired,” said Gregg Corwin,
Hamm’s attorney.

Cathy Hamm and her husband, Mike, who retired at the end of
September, had been on paid leave since May as their roles in the
North American Wildlife Officers Enforcement Association conference
– held in St. Paul in 2007 – were investigated.

Investigations began in May after a Star Tribune report raised
questions about the conference. A subsequent review by the state
Legislative Auditor concluded that about $300,000 in state money
was improperly used to put on the conference, which turned a
$76,000 profit for two private groups.

The DNR last week released four investigations – parts of each
were redacted. One was an internal investigation of Hamm.

Tammy Prust, of Parker Rosen LLC in Minneapolis, completed the
other three, which focused on the conference: reviews of each of
the Hamms; and one that focused on Holsten, Martinson, Larry
Kramka, a DNR assistant commissioner, and Brad Moore, a former
assistant commissioner.

The DNR statement regarding Cathy Hamm reads: “The action was
taken because investigations uncovered serious employee misconduct
pertaining to management of public funds, failure to follow DNR
procedures, and violations of the DNR’s harassment and
discrimination policy.

“We have the responsibility to uphold the public’s trust in the
administration of state funds. The investigation clearly shows that
the management of the Enforcement Division disregarded that
obligation and violated our policies and procedures. We will now
begin rebuilding that management team.”

In relation to Martinson, the statement read: “This is a result
of investigation findings that showed inadequate review of a
special expense authorization.”

Hamm says she’s being made a scapegoat in the controversy over
misuse of taxpayer money for the conference and that she only
followed decisions made by her superiors.

Hamm’s friend, former conservation officer, and state Rep. Tony
Cornish, R-Good Thunder, took issue with action pertaining to

“I believe that Capt. Cathy Hamm will be vindicated should she
wish to bring suit, and I hope she does,” Cornish said in an
e-mail. “The investigation was a sham and the charges involved in
her firing will never hold up.”

One of the investigations was unrelated to the conference and
focused on complaints of racial and gender discrimination against
Hamm, who denied the allegations.

Corwin said Holsten’s statement is “potentially defamatory”
unless it’s retracted, and that Hamm retired and should receive
benefits. He doesn’t believe she was discharged, but that she

“It’s in limbo,” Corwin said. “She retired and then all of this
stuff happened. We really don’t know what her status is right now.
That’s what we are trying to ascertain.

“There may ultimately be some kind of a hearing if we don’t get
it resolved.”

The AP contributed to this report.

Click here for discrimination report.

Click here for investigation

Click here for staff investigation report.

Click here for Cathy Hamm investigation
report. (9.6MB)

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