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Friday, June 6, 2008

Charges Against Former DGIF Director Dismissed

Circuit Judge Richard D. Taylor Jr. ruled yesterday that prosecutors failed to prove former DGIF Director William Woodfin committed a crime when he used state funds to equip a 2004 African safari. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that then-Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources David Paylor testified he gave Woodfin approval to take a satellite phone to use for business purposes while in Africa. Paylor testified there were no discussions about personal use of the phone. Woodfin's wife became ill during the trip and he accrued a charge of almost $400 -- since reimbursed -- for personal use of the satellite phone.

From February to July 2004, Woodfin used his department-issued American Express card to purchase clothing and boots. Prosecutors questioned the need for those purchases, because Woodfin had clothes provided to him. The chief financial officer of the game department signed off on the credit-card expenses in question, saying in court that in his opinion it was a "proper, reasonable, prudent purchase on the credit card."

Davis testified there were no policies in place at the time limiting the purchase of clothing items for employees of the department's executive office.

Charges were dropped previously against two former state game wardens who accompanied Woodfin on the safari, which was supposed to be a fact-finding trip on wildlife conservation.

Some sportsmen questioned the use of state funds for the trip while they felt state wildlife properties were suffering from previous budget cuts. This likely ends what has been a four year chapter in the agency's history that saw several proposals to change the way the agency's Board and director is chosen. Currently, the Board, which is appointed by the Governor, hires the Director of the agency. Some legislators have introduced legislation that would change the way the Board is appointed by making some members appointees of the General Assembly and some appointees of the Governor. All of those changes have failed to make it through the Assembly.

The Agency has made changes to keep this type of thing from occurring in the future.

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