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Game Warden Conference To Cost Game And Fish Fund $264,000

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Game warden conference cost fish and game fund $264,000

By DAVID SHAFFER, Star Tribune

September 8, 2008

Minnesota hunters and anglers paid a big share of the bill for an international game warden conference that earned a profit for a state employees union and now is under scrutiny by state investigators.

The conference last year featured a week of social events and training for state conservation officers and their peers from across U.S. and Canada. The state Legislative Auditor recently reported that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources inappropriately spent $300,000 in public money and violated a conflict-of-interest law in supporting the July 2007 event in a St. Paul hotel.

DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten on Monday told two Legislative committees that all of the estimated $390,000 in state aid to the conference initially came out of the special fund that gets its money from hunting and fishing license fees.

When questions arose about the conference earlier this year, Holsten said the department reallocated money to partly repay the fish and game fund. Even so, the fund still ended up putting more than $230,000 into the conference, plus $34,000 for related travel, he said.

That fund's money is supposed to be spent on an array of fish and game programs -- everything from game enforcement to fish hatcheries to wildlife management areas. In an interview, Holsten said he recognized that hunters and anglers won't be happy about the conference spending.

"Just as I'm not happy -- I would like it to be something different," Holsten said in an interview after appearing before the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division and the Senate Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division.

The inquiries by the Legislative Auditor, the two committees and an internal DNR investigation were prompted by a report about the conference last May in the Star Tribune in May.

Although the DNR kicked in money and staff time to plan and host the conference, the $76,000 in profits went to the state conservation officers union and the international association -- with none to the state.

Legislators urged Legislative Auditor James Nobles to try to get some of the money back, a legal effort he has turned over to the Attorney General's office. A spokesman for the office said attorneys are reviewing the audit.

Holsten has said he was not aware of the extent of DNR's financial commitment to the conference. He said he will take action to deal with the problem after another inquiry, by a Minneapolis law firm retained by the state, is completed in a few weeks.

Col Mike Hamm, head of the enforcement division, and his wife, Capt. Cathy Hamm, a regional supervisor who led the conference planning, were placed on administrative leave last May when the investigations began.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis and chairwoman of the House subcommittee, said she believes the commissioner's office and others, including Col. Hamm, share the blame for authorizing illegal fundraising. "It does seem to me...that Col. Hamm is the chief law enforcement officer and he didn't know the law," Wagenius said.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090

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The Union needs to return the receipts to the Game & Fish fund...NOW

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Of course I will vote YES on the Constitutional Amendment now.

After all, the Amendment putting the Lottery in (to benefit Fish and Game) was sooooo very long ago, my memory is fading, and this latest insult is just a minor slip-up.

Yeah, right.

Fool me once.....

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aren't conferences paid by vendors, and member fees? I know the company I work for has to pay a lot for vendor booth fees, sponsorships, and all attendees pay for their own food, hotel, events tickets, training sessions, etc.

what a joke....

What these international officers want a free tab?

Must have been one [PoorWordUsage] of an open bar.

Can you say vote NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

frown

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I'll stand by my no vote. And how is this guy not fired? That's a pretty big oops. If anyone took $300 from their company they would be gone, how can you take 300 grand and still be in position?

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how can you take 300 grand and still be in position?

You kidding? ever try to fire a state or federal employee? It takes an act of congress.

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Originally Posted By: Sandmannd
how can you take 300 grand and still be in position?

You kidding? ever try to fire a state or federal employee? It takes an act of congress.

And they wonder why we don't trust them. Whatever happened to accountability?

And I hope no really believes this the only money they wasted. If they are willing to misuse $300,000 how many instances of lesser amounts that don't make to the public eye do you think happen? Vote to give them more of my money to waste? Not Likely!!!!! mad

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Why would this make you want to vote no on the amendment? It reinforces that you can't trust that out license fees are spent well. The dedicated funding however would NOT go to the Department of No Reason, it would be governed by a board made up of citizens and legislatures combined.

If you have a restoration project you could go to this board looking for matching funds that sort of deal.

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