Ky. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife commissioner under fire over contract

06/11/2013 01:53 PM

The commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife may have some fast moving waters to navigate in Frankfort if he wants to keep his job.

Lawmakers on the interim Government Contract Review Committee blasted the Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jonathan Gassett during their hearing on Tuesday for failing to official file his employment contract with the state over the last three years.

Stuart Ray, chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, testified before legislators on the contract review committee about discrepancies found in the filing of Gassett’s state contract. Gassett’s contract calls for him to make $218,000 a year in salary, bonuses and other benefits, according to contract paperwork provided to the committee.

Gassett has headed up the agency since 2005, however state contract rules changed in 2010 to require state oversight and approval.

Ray told the interim committee that the commission only filled the paperwork after the contract review committee requested the documents this spring. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission also has not voted on the contract brought before legislators.

“What we were advised to do was to take the contract that the commissioner was in approved — unanimously approved — by the commission in 2010 take the material substance of that contract, the compensation benefits and put it in the state format and submit it,” Ray said. “It wasn’t our understanding that the commission needed to approve it, because technically we didn’t feel it was a new contract we felt like it was the material issues of the original contract.”

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, told the commission that he had heard of other agencies investigating Gassett’s contract in addition to the contract review committee.

Yonts told Pure Politics after the meeting that not filing the contract with the state raised the question of the commissioner’s adequacy in the role. He said the Fish and Wildlife Commission was currently split on Gassett’s performance in the position, and the controversy over the contract could affect future votes.

Lawmakers opted to defer their approval of Gassett’s contract until after the Wildlife Commission can vote on his contract. However, Yonts had hoped that the committee would wait until further investigations by other agencies would conclude.

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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