Article

Magic Valley Fish and Game supervisor demoted

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has demoted David Parrish as Magic Valley regional supervisor a month after he publicly criticized an estimated $500 million wind project south of Twin Falls. Parrish's comments prompted a high-ranking legislator to contact Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and express concern that Parrish had violated the governor's office's media policy. Fish and Game announced the demotion Monday to state employees - but did not do so publicly.

Lawmakers call Parrish's letter about wind farm 'inappropriate'

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has demoted David Parrish as Magic Valley regional supervisor a month after he publicly criticized an estimated $500 million wind project south of Twin Falls.

Parrish's comments prompted a high-ranking legislator to contact Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and express concern that Parrish had violated the governor's office's media policy.

Fish and Game announced the demotion Monday to state employees - but did not do so publicly. Deputy Director Virgil Moore confirmed the change Wednesday, and said Parrish's letter to the Times-News about the 185-turbine China Mountain wind farm contributed to his demotion.

Moore and Jon Hanian, a spokesman for the governor, said Wednesday that Otter had no involvement with the decision, though Moore acknowledged that state legislators had contacted Fish and Game Director Cal Groen and commissioners about the issue.

On July 6, the Times-News printed a letter Parrish wrote in response to an editorial endorsing the wind farm project. He wrote that it might benefit the economy but "will have negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife."

"It's a no-brainer... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Lawmakers call Parrish's letter about wind farm 'inappropriate'

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has demoted David Parrish as Magic Valley regional supervisor a month after he publicly criticized an estimated $500 million wind project south of Twin Falls.

Parrish's comments prompted a high-ranking legislator to contact Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and express concern that Parrish had violated the governor's office's media policy.

Fish and Game announced the demotion Monday to state employees - but did not do so publicly. Deputy Director Virgil Moore confirmed the change Wednesday, and said Parrish's letter to the Times-News about the 185-turbine China Mountain wind farm contributed to his demotion.

Moore and Jon Hanian, a spokesman for the governor, said Wednesday that Otter had no involvement with the decision, though Moore acknowledged that state legislators had contacted Fish and Game Director Cal Groen and commissioners about the issue.

On July 6, the Times-News printed a letter Parrish wrote in response to an editorial endorsing the wind farm project. He wrote that it might benefit the economy but "will have negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife."

"It's a no-brainer - the footprint of a project that will cover prime habitat sage grouse, mule deer, antelope and other sagebrush dependent species," he wrote. " ... The addition to the landscape of enormous vertical structures (wind turbines and power distribution towers and lines) has the real potential to reduce the suitability of the area for wildlife. This is not opinion or supposition on the part of our agency; scientific peer reviewed literature supports our concerns."

He closed his letter, "Let the bureaucratic process work before passing judgment on whether the project is good for Idaho or Twin Falls County."

Groen responded nine days latter with his own letter asserting that Parrish gave his own opinion, not that of the agency.

But Idaho House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley and Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, discussed the issue and agreed Parrish's letter was inappropriate.

Bedke said he contacted Otter. Brackett said he stayed quiet because his nephew's property could be used for part of the wind farm.

"I've purposely kept a fairly low profile on it because my nephew is involved in it, and I don't want to be accused of conflict of interest, so I have kept a pretty hands-off approach," Brackett said.

When asked if he suggested that Bedke contact Otter, Brackett said: "I didn't tell him not to. He has his own mind and makes his own decisions and follows his own actions. I agree with what he did."

Bedke said he worried Parrish was speaking too early in the environmental assessment process and he believed the letter, which Parrish signed with his official title, violated Otter's media policy.

In April, Otter Communication Director Mark Warbis e-mailed state employees reminding them to alert him about media interviews and to allow him to review potentially controversial press releases before they go public. Letters to newspapers are not mentioned.

"As someone who watches those issues and reads the newspaper every day front to back, I saw that and thought 'hmm, this seems inconsistent with the directive that came from the governor's office' and it already seems like a conclusion was drawn here," Bedke said.

Carl Nellis, a Fish and Game regional supervisor before his retirement in 2000, disagreed, saying those comments were acceptable in his years at the agency.

"When I was supervisor, I did that all the time," said Nellis, who preceded Parrish. "It depends on how you read it. Any time the media contacts you and requests information, you have to let the governor's office know. It doesn't say you can't write a letter to the editor."

Parrish, who spent 16 years in the Magic Valley office, including the last eight as supervisor, declined comment other than to say he will be transferred to Boise as the fisheries program coordinator.

As for Parrish's new position, Moore said, "It's a demotion from the standpoint of the actual position. It does not affect Dave's financial situation at all."

Moore said the letter to the editor was only one factor in Parrish's demotion and that discussions of his removal went "back months."

"That particular issue is not the primary reason why we would be taking this kind of action," he said, declining to elaborate on what he called a personnel matter.

He also said political pressure from lawmakers was not a factor.

"I know that commissioners and the director himself were contacted by legislators, but it had no influence on my recommendations and interactions with Dave on this particular matter," Moore said.

Stephen Hartgen, a Twin Falls political consultant employed by the company that would build the wind farm and who was recently chosen by Otter to succeed Brackett in the state House, said he had no contact with any public official about the issue and didn't learn of the demotion until Wednesday.

But the involvement of the lawmakers drew the ire of Nellis, who called the move a bad precedent for the agency and its employees.

"In this case it looks like a couple of politicians are in charge of personnel," he said. "The big fallout from this (is) the rest of the folks in the agency are afraid to open their mouths because they're afraid they'll be next."


Source: http://www.magicvalley.com/...

AUG 7 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16385-magic-valley-fish-and-game-supervisor-demoted
back to top