HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission wasted no time Tuesday agreeing to comply with demands by Gov. Tom Corbett and several high-ranking state lawmakers to reverse some recent decisions and adopt a new policy on outside work by employees.
The response from the commission’s executive director, Matthew Hough, a Trinity High School alumnus, came hours after the governor and top legislators told the board’s president in a letter that the agency should rescind an agreement to pay $220,000 to recently retired executive director Carl Roe.
The governor and lawmakers also insisted that veteran employee William Capouillez, who directs the bureau of wildlife habitat management, not be named as the long-term successor to Roe and Hough.
Capouillez has drawn scrutiny for work negotiating oil and gas leases for private landowners with companies he dealt with as a Game Commission employee. Capouillez has said he disclosed the business in state ethics filings and does not perform private work on state time.
The letter demanded that outside work by all agency employees now be approved by the Office of Administration, which Corbett controls.
The response from Hough said the agency would immediately comply with the recommendations.
“The board directed me to inform you that it reviewed the letter and has agreed to the course of action set forth therein,” Hough wrote.
Along with Corbett, the letter also was signed by the two highest-ranking Republicans in the House and Senate, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate committees that deal with the Game Commission and the Senate committee’s ranking Democrat.
Their letter was striking in its tone, demanding the board members agree to the changes or step down.
“If, individually or collectively, you and your fellow commissioners are unable to appreciate the prudence of fostering the above course of action, or you are otherwise inclined to refuse the above recommendations, alternatively, we request that you immediately resign,” they wrote.
The issues probably have given the Game Commission a black eye, said board president Robert Schlemmer, to whom the letter was addressed.
“But we’re going to get this thing back on track,” Schlemmer said. “We’re going to do what’s good for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the wildlife, for the hunters. Let’s get on with work here.”
Capouillez said he felt the criticism was unfair to him and in a written release said he had “neither the energy nor the optimism to try and defend myself.” His outside work, he suggested, had received “full governmental disclosure, compliance review, and varied bureaucratic approvals all along.”
When Hough was appointed in January, the commission said he had plans to retire in the near future. Capouillez said he was one of several people being considered to succeed him on a long-term basis.
The commission agreed in late January to pay Roe $220,000 to avoid what it considered to be potential litigation over wrongful termination. That payment is being evaluated for legality by the state attorney general’s office.