Embattled Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jonathan Gassett resigns post

09/05/2013 08:40 PM

The embattled commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Jonathan Gassett resigned his position late Thursday, notifying colleagues in the agency through a letter that he was going to work at a non-profit wildlife organization.

Pure Politics obtained the letter, which is addressed to “colleagues and friends” in the department, from a former Fish and Wildlife employee. Other sources associated with the agency confirmed the authenticity of the letter. Download the letter here: GassettResignation.pdf

A phone call to Gassett was not immediately returned Thursday night.

Gassett, who holds a doctorate in biology, said in the letter that he was accepting a position with the Wildlife Management Institute .

The resignation comes as Gassett’s future with the agency had become increasingly cloudy. Legislators had questioned the legitimacy of his employment contract because he had failed to get it properly approved, including through the state legislature.

Gassett has served as commissioner of the department since 2005, but was hired on to the agency in 1999 under then-Commissioner Tom Bennett.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that Gassett had spent more on travel during his tenure as commissioner than the state’s economic development chief, charged with attracting businesses from across the globe.

Gassett, in the letter, listed what he considered the accomplishments of the department during his tenure, but closes by posing a rhetorical question.

“So, why would I leave all this if everything was great? That is the question that I have asked myself through many sleepless nights. The simplest explanation is that I feel the need to invest my time in a different arena. While the job of running a state agency is one of the best anyone can have, after 8-years, the day-to-day functions have taken me away from the reasons for entering this field – to focus with laser-like intensity on the conservation of our wildlife resources and outdoor heritage.”

In the letter, Gassett says the Deputy Commissioner Benjy Kinman will step into the role of acting commissioner.

(For more on this story, watch Pure Politics on Friday at 7 p.m. EST or 11:30 p.m.)


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.