Sandusky County wildlife officer Brian Bury followed the rules when he went deer hunting the same day he was on duty, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources probe has concluded.
The ODNR probe was carried out after a December state inspector general report alleged 18 wildlife officers were either deer hunting on duty or turning in false time reports. One of the 18 has retired, and the department exonerated 16 of the 17 remaining officers and returned them to active duty on Tuesday, said Bethany McCorkle, an ODNR spokeswoman.
Bury is one of the officers back on the job as a law enforcement officer, after being assigned desk duty while the probe was carried out.
Another officer, James Carnes, of Highland County, faces discipline from the department. He’s been referred to a pre-disciplinary hearing.
McCorkle wouldn’t release his name, but she released the names of all the other 16 officers who had been cleared of wrongdoing. Missing from that list is Carnes, accused in the inspector general report of deer hunting in Highland County while on duty on Dec. 5, 2009.
The inspector general combed through work records for the officers before releasing a report on the matter. According to the report, on Jan. 24, 2011, Bury may have harvested a deer while on duty, and on Jan. 25 he checked it in when his unit history log showed he was on duty.
McCorkle said further investigation showed Bury and most of the other officers were taking advantage of flexible working schedules, as they often do, and were not hunting deer on company time.
“We were very pleased with what we found in our investigation and review” she said.
A flexible schedule for the officers is considered normal because of the nature of their work, she said.
“They are pretty much on call and responding when need be” she said.
The ODNR concedes that record keeping by the wildlife officers leaves something to be desired, and the agency has tightened that up, she said.
“The daily logs they keep now will more accurately reflect a snapshot of their day” she said.
The officers will be required to log on hourly, which also will improve safety, as the department will quickly notice if an officer is missing, she said.
Bury did not return a call asking for comment.
Carl Enslen, deputy Ohio inspector general, said the office has received the ODNR’s response.
“We do stand by the report that we issued. However, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources does have to come to their own conclusion on how to handle this issue,” Enslen said. “Clearly, the report does touch on a lack of solid record keeping”