After receiving what amounted to a reprimand from Gov. Tom Corbett and several high-ranking lawmakers, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided last week to reverse a couple of controversial decisions and adopt a new policy regarding outside work by employees.
New executive director Matt Hough, a Trinity High School graduate and Washington native, wasted no time in rescinding an agreement to pay recently retired executive director Carl Roe what amounted to a $220,000 golden parachute, while also cracking down on the practice of another commission employee that looked questionable at best.
Commission employee William Capouillez, the director of wildlife habitat management, has drawn scrutiny for work negotiating oil and gas leases for private landowners for companies that he dealt with as a commission employee.
That appears to be a conflict of interest since Capouillez draws a paycheck from companies for which he negotiates oil and gas deals for the commission.
Capouillez said he disclosed the business in state ethics filings and does not perform private work on state time.
The governeror’s office, which also insisted Capouillez not be considered for the executive director position in the future, asked that all outside work by commission employees now be approved by the Office of Administration.
“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 in response.
Some have viewed the state’s involvement in Game Commission dealings as the governor and legislature attempting to gain control over the agency, which is independent. But there are times when oversight is needed, and this would appear to be one of those cases.
At a time when the legislature is releasing a study showing that a merger of the Fish and Boat and Game commissions would save nearly $5 per year in personnel costs – as it did earlier this week – the Game Commission can’t afford the appearances of impropriety.
In that report, which was issued Wednesday, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee said the agencies could trim 52 posititions with a merger.
Pennsylvania is currently the only state that has two separate agencies to manage its fishing and wildlife resources.
The Fish and Boat Commission had 381 employees and 51 vacanies as of last summer, while the Game Commission had 700 employees and eight vacancies.
• The Game Commission recently enrolled its 30th class of cadets at the Ross Leffler School of Conservation and includes a local resident.
Jeremy Brunst of Richeyville was one of the 31 individuals who was enrolled in the class, which will now undergo 50 weeks of training.
The class was chosen from among 622 applicants.
• Molly Hensley of Oil City took top honors last week at the 4-Position NRA Open Sectional held at the Frazier-Simplex Rifle Club, shooting a 792-49.
Arianna Grabowski and Morgan Duerr, both of whom shoot for Frazier-Simplex, finished second and third, respectively.
Frazier-Simplex won the team honors, edging the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsmen’s club, 1,567-1,565.
Outdoors Editor F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.