Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Jonathan Gassett improperly used state workers and resources during his tenure at the department, according to a report released Monday.
The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, with help from the Office of Inspector General in the cabinets of labor, energy and environment and public protection, launched an investigation into activity at the department after fielding a number of anonymous complaints in late 2012.
Investigators found Gassett, who resigned in September and declined to be interviewed by the inspector general, had department employees: pump a crawlspace at his Harvieland Road home after a water pipe burst in 2009; had employees drive a department vehicle to Lexington to pick up personal building materials; improperly obtained a pesticide for his personal benefit; used the department’s discounted FedEx rate for his personal use; worked on his personal canoe in a department shop with state-owned tools; and carried a concealed handgun without a concealed deadly weapon license, the report said.
Gassett did not return a message left on his cell phone seeking comment, though he told the Associated Press in an email he wanted to review the material with an attorney before commenting.
The inspector general said “appropriate disciplinary action” should be taken against those who violated regulations or state laws and the department should strengthen its ethics training and ensure those who complied with the investigation aren’t retaliated against.
Investigators found some rank-and-file workers felt “fear of retaliation for refusal” to perform improper work at Gassett’s direction.
The report also implicated others in wrongdoing, including two Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission members who used their positions to have fish stocked for free. Commission member Chistopher Godby had fish delivered to his personal pond while commission member Stephen Glenn had the department stock a retired Fish and Wildlife employee’s pond.
Deputy Commissioner Benjy Kinman, whom Gassett named as acting commissioner at his resignation, had a role in sending employees to Gassett’s home in 2009, helping Gassett obtain the pesticide and twice stocking the former Fish and Wildlife employee’s private pond, the report said.
Engineering Technical Associate III John Akers, in the department’s Engineering Division, used the department’s workshop for personal projects, used state-owned tools on those projects and helped others, including Gassett, with their personal maintenance needs, such as when Gassett used the shop to fix a ding in his canoe, according to the report.
“The commission requested this investigation and we appreciate the work put into this report. We fully intend to address the issues raised in the report’s findings to insure that all policies and procedures are followed and that the integrity of the department is maintained,” Stuart Ray, chairman of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission, said in a statement.
Matt Sawyers, deputy secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, has been named acting Fish and Wildlife commissioner as a new leader is sought for the department.