Ethics Commission charges former Fish and Wildlife chief Jonathan Gassett and three others

01/27/2014 07:38 PM

The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission slapped former commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Jonathan Gassett with nine charges of misusing states resources and state personnel.

Gassett resigned his position in September amid investigations into his conduct, questions about his employment contract and extensive travel, and complaints of intimidation from former employees.

The ethics commission charged Gassett with violating state ethics laws by having department employees pump water out of his basement, fix his personal canoe and conduct an inspection on a home he was looking to buy — all on state time. The ethics commission investigation also found that Gassett had the Kentucky State Police provide him with guest passes to the Kentucky Derby. The report says the guest passes were used for Gassett’s personal enjoyment.

Gassett also was charged with abuses of the department’s FedEx account for his personal gain. The investigation found that Gassett used the department’s shipping number to ship an alligator skin from an animal he killed in Florida to a Georgia taxidermist.

Gassett and other former and current officials can contest the charges in administrative hearings before the commission. If they are found to be in violation of the code of ethics, they can be fined up to $5,000 per violation and receive a public reprimand.

The commission can also recommend any who are still employed be suspended or terminated.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission is still looking into further wrong doing inside the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

As part of the investigation, the ethics commission also found potential abuses by other former and current fish and wildlife officials.

It charged current Deputy Commissioner Benji Kinman on four violations, including directing employees to work on Gassett’s home to directing fish from a hatchery be relocated to the pond of a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission member.

Scott King, the former assistant director for the division of administrative services,
also was charged with using and wrecking a department owned John Deere tractor and then using federal grant money for repairs.

The investigation report also says that King used his position to create a “oppressive and hostile atmosphere” by requiring subordinate employees to wear short skirts and high heels and asking to see an employee’s breasts for favorable treatment.

John Akers, the former supervisor of the department maintenance shop, also faces charges for violations relating to misuse of materials owned by the department.

Gassett and the others charged by the commission have the right to an administrative hearing.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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