HAYDEN, Idaho. - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is under scrutiny after a private investigator in North Idaho accused the organization of misusing state property. 'Confidential Investigations' was hired to look at IDFG public records for a civil case and ended up finding more than they expected.
Erin Jenkins, of Confidential Investigations,' was hired to review IDFG records for an outside case and in the course of the investigation says he found misuse of state property and evidence that state officers were using state property for personal use.
Jenkins points to an internal IDFG e-mail to substantiate his allegations. In part, that email, sent from District Conservation Officer Mark Rhodes to Conservation Officer Mark Bowen, reads "I have absolutely no problem with our folks using department phones (or other things for that matter) for personal stuff as long as we make things right."
IDFG explained that there are certain allowances and policies for using equipment in the field, but the allegations don't stop there.
Dave Thompson, a North Idaho resident, says he witnessed his neighbor Josh Stanley, an IDFG officer, use his state owned pick-up for personal use and took photographs to document the event. The photographs show the officer allegedly hauling rock for landscaping in the state-owned pick-up. IDFG says they're not sure the proof or the story are real.
IDFG Regional Supervisor Chip Corsi says, "the pictures are not terribly definitive of anything other than there's a truck in the yard... I mean I have rock around and in my yard and there's been time when my vehicle, fish and game vehicle's been parked in my driveway and I don't see anything here that demonstrates anything."
Thompson says he was doing his job as a citizen.
The plot thickens. IDFG also owns cabins on its' land which are another focal point in the investigation. The state says that the cabins are primarily used as lodging for patrol officers who are working in the area, however internal e-mails obtained by 'Confidential Investigations' document state employees using the cabins for personal vacations. One such e-mail from Bowen to a number of IDFG conservation officers reads "will be leaving in a bit for the cabin. I plan to be there until Wednesday...I'll have family with their 5th wheel trailer there also."
IDFG says employees are allowed to bring family and friends to the cabins, however when asked if taxpayers were allowed to use the cabins, they responded, "we're not a tax funded agency to begin with, we're a dedicated funded agency, so sportsman, but if an officer is working out of the cabin and his family happens to spend the night there, that's covered in our policy."
Jenkins surmises "as a citizen of Idaho, who pays taxes, as a business, we pay a lot of taxes, it's really frustrating to see that organizations that are supposed to serve people is really serving itself in our opinion."
The investigation conducted by 'Confidential Investigations' has raised a number of questions and also has IDFG looking into the matter and questioning the employees named.
KHQ is continuing to follow this developing story and will bring you more information as it becomes available.