DNR deputy resigns after sick day scandal

Springfield — Only weeks after being selected to lead the Illinois Conservation Foundation, a DNR deputy director resigned after an investigation revealed that he had improperly used more than 40 days of sick leave last summer to participate in fishing tournaments around the country.

After quitting, Travis Loyd told reporters that his doctor advised him to fish as a way to “relieve stress” and that DNR, which pays him more than $96,000 per year, knew that he was fishing.

The actions – and the ultimate fate –  of Loyd once again cast a spotlight on a DNR administration that until Loyd’s resignation had included a director, a chief of staff and two deputy directors.

Loyd, who had been named deputy director in 2010, had just been placed as executive director of the ICF, a role DNR Director Marc Miller, who also serves as he ICF chairman, called “an interim” appointment.

But on Feb. 7, a Chicago television station reported that it used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Loyd’s time sheets at DNR. According to FOX 32, the sheets show that between May 1 and mid-August of 2013, Loyd put in just 7.5 hours working for DNR.

Between vacation days and the 44 sick days he had accumulated, Loyd managed to vacate his DNR office and fish in several Wal-Mart FLW fishing tournaments during that period. Photos from those tournaments are prominent on Loyd’s personal website, www.gofishtravis.com, and on the FLW site.

What led to Loyd’s demise is the fact that, under state employment policy, “sick leave may be used for illness, disability, or injury of the employee, appointments with the doctor, dentist or other professional medical practitioner.”

Several news outlets confronted DNR about the misuse of sick days, and Loyd reportedly handed in his resignation.
Incidentally, while the situation was unfolding, Loyd was fishing in Florida, finishing in 169th place during an FLW tournament at Lake Okeechobee. According to FLW, Loyd fished two days, Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, caught 15 pounds, 4 ounces of fish and earned zero dollars.

According to his bio on the FLW home page, Loyd “has seen most of his success come from the EverStart Series, qualifying for the championship three times. Loyd has yet to win an FLW event, but does have several top-10 finishes including a personal best finish of 4th place at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 2005.”

The site also indicates that Loyd is the owner of 30 franchise areas of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. It makes no mention of his tenure as deputy director at DNR, but it does note, “In 2011 Loyd created ‘Target Hunger Now!’” at DNR.

Prior to joining DNR, Loyd had been a 2008 Democratic candidate for state representative in the 107th District. After losing the election, he was appointed to a DNR job. When he was promoted to deputy director, his job description called for him to “address procurement, contracts, and other internal responsibilities.”

Loyd’s passion for and time spent fishing is not the issue that has DNR, Miller and Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration facing important questions. The question is why Loyd was allowed to take the time off and why it took inquiries from a journalist to point out that he was fishing instead of caring for an illness or any other action that would qualify for sick leave.

Quinn claimed that he does not know Loyd, and that “Sick leave has rules in Illinois. You have to comply with those rules.”

For their part, DNR’s top brass has been rather quiet on the matter. Miller has not made a public statement. When questioned, DNR spokesman Chris McCloud replied with an email stating, “The Department of Natural Resources has zero tolerance for any misconduct by our employees. As soon as this situation came to light we moved swiftly to address it and the employee has since resigned.”

Loyd’s name has disappeared from the ICF website, but as of Feb. 13 the DNR website still listed him as a deputy director.

The other deputy director under Miller is Beth Penesis, a former member of the Democratic State Central Committee who had been intergovernmental affairs liaison for Gov. Quinn’s office before coming to DNR in 2011. Her salary at DNR is more than $90,000, according to state records.

DNR’s chief of staff is Todd Main, who once served as the national field director for Nader for President and worked as a consultant for national environmental advocacy groups before coming to Illinois.

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