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Old 02-17-2005, 04:26 PM
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Default Va. DGIF - On the public Dime? - Update charges dismissed

Va. DGIF spending practices examined

By Bill Cochran
ROANOKE.COM COLUMNIST

You had to like the way John Montgomery Jr. handled the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries effort to examine the agencys procurement practices. During a DGIF committee meeting at the agencys headquarters in Richmond last week, Montgomery, a department board member, came by the press table and thanked the media representatives for being there. There were four of us.
He thanked the handful of guests present. He said he and other representatives would be willing to address questions at the close of the meeting, although they would be limited in what they could say. There was legal counsel present to make certain everyone remembered that a state auditor was in the process of reviewing credit card use by several top officials of the agency.
It had been a long time since such feelings of openness and good will were evident at a DGIF board function. Was this the first step in restoring the credibility and cordiality of the agency Lets hope so, although dark days loom ahead.
Montgomery, a lawyer, is a new board member from Sandston. He and two other members were assigned by board chairman Dan Hoffler to look into DGIF spending practices following extremely bad publicity in the wake of a 17-day African safari taken by Hoffler, executive director Bill Woodfin and two high-ranking game wardens.
Hoffler, Woodfin and the two wardens were not present at the committee meeting, nor were any department heads, with the exception of Ray Davis, the agencys chief financial officer. Davis was there to recommend checks and balances to help assure that the departments procurement practices are above reproach.
What he didnt recommend may have been the highlight of the meeting. He did not recommend that employees cut up their credit cards. The cards are essential for employees to do their job, and they are cost effective, Davis said.
The recommendations that were made included a three-person committee to review credit card purchases before and after they are made. Events, travel or purchases of more than $2,500 would require pre-approval by the review committee.
The recommendations are expected to be presented to the full board during its March 24 meeting.
Attending the committee meeting was Lee Albright, a Montebello resident who blew the whistle on what he called questionable spending by agency officials. Afterwards he said that the recommendations likely would not have prohibited the credit card use being questioned because it was carried out by top officials of the agency. But in the future, officials will be aware someone is looking over their shoulders, he said.
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Old 02-18-2005, 10:22 PM
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THEY OPENED THE SUBJECT UP FOR DISCUSSION ON LONG ISLAND AGAIN



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Old 02-16-2006, 08:56 PM
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CODE OF ETHICS FOR DGIF BOARD

The board of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is expected to adopt a five-page code of ethics and conduct at it Jan. 17 meeting in Richmond. The document states that board members shall act with integrity and in an ethical and professional manner in their interactions with each other, the Director of the Secretary of Natural Resources, members of the General Assembly, department employees, consultants, advisors and the public.
The State Internal Auditor came down heavy on the board last year for failing in its responsibility to oversee the agencys finances and operations. The boards chairman resigned and the agencys executive director was fired. A new executive director is scheduled to be named in March.
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Old 02-16-2006, 08:57 PM
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Bill would revamp DGIF board

The 11-members currently on the board of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries would be dismissed and replaced with an expanded, 13-member board under a bill introduced by Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge.
Lingamfelter, a co-chairman of the Sportsmans Caucus, said, I want to make sure that the actions of the board are above reproach.
The bill, HB 362, calls for the Speaker of the House to appoint four board members; the Senate Rules Committee three members and the governor six members. Under the current system, one member from each of the congressional districts is appointed by the governor.
Lingamfelters bill specifies that at least one board member be appointed from the following regions: Northern Virginia, Central Virginia, Hampton Roads and Southwest Virginia. The remainder would be at large. The majority of board members would have to be associated with hunting and fishing interest and others would represent conservation interests, wildlife biology and marine biology. Boating and wildlife watching, important aspects of DGIF, are not mentioned.
The DGIF, which is under the Secretary of Natural Resources, would be reassigned to the executive branch of state government.
The bill also calls for the minute books and other records of the DGIF to be open to examination by members of the General Assembly and that the appointment of the director be confirmed by the General Assembly.
The events of late I think warrant more of our involvement, said Lingamfelter.
As for involvement, look for a number of other pieces of legislation aimed at revamping the DGIF.
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Old 09-30-2007, 10:07 PM
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Default Re: On the public Dime?

Follow up to this story

September 27 2007
Bill Cochran Roanoke.com
Last week, when three former top officials of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were indicted on charges of misusing state funds for a questionable 2004 African Safari, many outdoorsmen were saying it was about time there was some movement in the case.
A scathing 51 page state auditors report released May 2005 had outlined fiscal improprieties, along with department cronyism and abuse of employees. A state police investigation followed, but wasnt heard from publicly in more than two years. In the minds of many outdoorsmen, right or wrong, the tardiness of the report cast doubts on the Attorney Generals office that it was being handled on the up and up. Attorney General Bob McDonnell took some heat that isnt likely to go away anytime soon.
The frustrated outdoorsmen and others who were exerting behind the scenes pressure in an effort to break the logjam werent being vindictive. They simply realized that the unresolved case was like a dark cloud hanging over the agency, even though the DGIF board has been working hard, and with success, toward putting the department back on track. With so many closets holding ghosts, there was just so much even a squeaky-clean approach could accomplish.
Indicted were former director William Woodfin Jr. and former game warden special units officer Maj. Michael Caison, both two counts, and former game warden chief Terry Bradbery, with one count. Each count is a felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The DGIF quickly distanced itself from the three former employees, saying they no longer are with the agency.
The attorney generals office said no additional indictments are anticipated, but many eyes will be watching the twists and turns this case is likely to take; that is, if it goes to trail. Two lawyers for the indicted have been quoted as saying their clients did nothing wrong, one saying that his client, Woodfin, had permission from superiors to do everything he did.
It isnt that a lot of money has been lost by the DGIF. What hurts is the agencys loss of integrity, loss of innocence and loss of constituency support. During a period of autocratic rule, which was so obvious it should have been halted by board members, many loyal and talented DGIF staff members were thwarted, even abused. Sportsmen who had worked hand-in-hand for years chose sides and in too many cases they remain at odds today. It is going to take a decade or more before this sad chapter is fully put to rest by an agency that otherwise has had an impeccable reputation in its services to the citizens of the commonwealth.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:40 AM
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By Warren Fiske
The Virginian-Pilot
June 5, 2008
RICHMOND
A judge tossed out felony embezzlement charges Thursday against the former director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, who had been accused of misusing state funds to go on a 2004 African safari.
William L. Woodfin Jr. is the last of three former top game officials to be exonerated this spring after being indicted last year on charges of using state credit cards to buy supplies for the excursion.
Two hours into a scheduled two-day trial, Richmond Circuit Judge Richard D. Taylor Jr. ruled that prosecutors had not presented evidence that Woodfin "knowingly" violated laws when he used a state credit card to pay for about $500 in clothes and shoes before the safari and $395 in personal calls home during the trip.
Although the money was paid back to the state, the use of the government credit card for the purchases resulted in two embezzlement indictments against Woodfin, each carrying a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine.
Woodfin, 60, declined to comment after the dismissal. His lawyer, Joseph Owen III, said the case should have never been pressed by Attorney General Bob McDonnell's office.
"From the first time I looked at this, I could not figure out why anyone would view this as a criminal action," Owen said. "Mr. Woodfin dedicated 30 years of his life to public service, and he was paid back with indictments. It's tragic."
Owen said Woodfin will take little solace in his exoneration. "He's been acquitted, but at the very least he's had two or three years of his life taken from him in worrying about this crap," Owen said. "It's a very sad footnote to a very distinguished public career."
Woodfin went on the safari with his two top game wardens - Terry C. Bradbery and Michael G. Caison - and Dan Hoffler, a Virginia Beach developer who in 2004 was chairman of the citizen board that oversaw the outdoor agency. A 2005 state audit said $11,532 in supplies for the trip had been charged to state credit cards. Hoffler eventually reimbursed the state for all supplies and trip costs.
Woodfin, Bradbery and Caison have since resigned from the agency, and Hoffler stepped down as chairman.
In April, Richmond Circuit Judge Beverly Snukals dismissed two embezzlement counts against Caison in midtrial, saying the state had not proved that crimes had been committed.
Last month, the state dropped its case against Bradbery.
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, defended pressing the cases.
"It is crucial to public trust in government that allegations of impropriety and misuse of public funds be heard," he said in a written statement. "Government officials must be held accountable for improperly spending citizens' tax dollars, and there must be a public process to present the relevant evidence. That process was concluded today."
McDonnell has been criticized for bringing a slow resolution to the cases against the game officials. State police were forwarded the audit and began their own investigation in July 2005. McDonnell, later that year, accepted $25,000 in campaign contributions from Hoffler and his company.
McDonnell inherited the cases when he became attorney general in January 2006. Because of his relationship with Hoffler, he recused himself and turned the files over to his chief deputy, William Mims. A grand jury handed up indictments last September against Woodfin, Bradbery and Caison.
The case against Woodfin was complicated by unclear regulations over use of state cards that existed in the game department in 2004 and confusion over whether the safari was technically a trip on state time or a vacation.
Hoffler came up with the safari idea, saying it would be an opportunity for the officials to learn about game conservation. David Paylor, a former deputy secretary of natural resources, testified he told the officials they would have to take the trip on personal time and no state money could be spent on it.
Paylor said he authorized the purchase of a satellite phone to be taken on the safari because Woodin, as wildlife director, was required to be in contact with his agency.
Records show Woodfin made $395 in calls to his home and $571 in calls to the office. Owen, the lawyer, said Woodfin made a number of calls home because his wife had a heart condition and he was worried about her.
Owen said Woodfin purchased khaki pants and boots with a state credit card not necessarily for the safari, but because they are part of a uniform he wore in Virginia for outdoor operations.
Several financial officers in the game department said the agency pays for the uniforms of game wardens. Woodfin's credit card purchases of clothing were authorized by department accountants. But there was conflicting testimony over whether the authorization meant that the purchases adhered to policies or that Woodfin simply produced receipts that matched his state credit card bill.
The financial officers also said there was no strict policy on the use of credit cards - only a requirement that purchases be consistent with the agency's "mission." Those rules have since been tightened.
Judge Taylor, in dismissing the charges, said the agency did not have "a set of procedures in place that served the taxpayers well."
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:40 AM
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Default Re: On the public Dime?

William L. Woodfin Jr.


The dismissal
A judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors didn’t present enough evidence that the former director “knowingly” violated laws when he used a state credit card for clothes, shoes and personal calls.

Charges filed in '06
Attorney General Bob McDonnell has been criticized for a slow resolution to the cases against the game officials, who were accused of using state money to finance a 2004 African safari.

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A spokesman for McDonnell defended pressing the cases, saying officials must be held accountable for spending public money.
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