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In the News: Arizona wildlife chief quit under fire

Arizona Republic, April 18, 2013 (posted 4/19/13)

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By Dennis Wagner

Former Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Jack Husted’s abrupt resignation last week came as agency administrators were reviewing multiple sexual-harassment allegations against him by state employees, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic.

Female Game and Fish Department workers reported to a human-resources supervisor that Husted gave them surprise hugs and made inappropriate suggestions.

Several alleged that he had “a relationship” and was living with one staffer, says a memo authored by Diana Shaffer, human-resources branch chief.

One employee described the alleged overtures as “creepy.”

In a statement Friday, Husted said, “I am just a man from rural Arizona where a handshake and a hug and the trading of a joke are part of normal human contact. ... If my personal style of communication offended anyone, I apologize for any misunderstanding.”

Husted, a Springerville businessman, also said his April 11 resignation letter to Gov. Jan Brewer speaks for itself.

In it, he made no mention of the controversy. Instead, he wrote that he was quitting “to embark on a new chapter in my life, as a private citizen, with time to focus on my family, my faith and my professional endeavors.”

But Game and Fish Department officials confirm that Husted had been apprised of allegations against him days earlier and was cautioned at that point by agency Director Larry Voyles against untoward conduct with female employees.

Gary Hovatter, special assistant to Voyles, said no formal harassment complaints were lodged against Husted.

Rather, Shaffer went on a fact-finding mission because rumors proliferated at agency headquarters. Her memo was presented on March 20 to Voyles, who shared the findings with Gov. Jan Brewer’s staff within days.

About the same time, Hovatter said, Voyles told Husted that rumors of harassment were being assessed. Hovatter said Husted was not provided a copy of the memo or given specifics concerning the contents.

Hovatter stressed that Voyles works for the commission under contract and has no authority over Husted, so Voyles did not urge the chairman to resign because to do so would have been inappropriate. Instead, Voyles met with members of Brewer’s staff on April 3. Days later, Husted resigned.

Brewer’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, said the governor did not ask Husted to leave but accepted his resignation and is comfortable with the inquiry and outcome. “This was handled with great speed and handled appropriately by Game and Fish,” he added.

The report by Shaffer describes incidents dating to 2011 and alleges that Husted persisted in advances even after being asked to stop. It also says employees declined to file formal complaints because “they are afraid they will be fired.”

“A female employee alleges that Husted came up from behind her with an ice cube and proceeded to wipe the ice cube around the perimeter of her ears,” Shaffer wrote in one segment.

Hovatter said no Game and Fish personnel benefited, got disciplined or suffered retaliation as a result of interactions with Husted.

Because Husted is no longer a commissioner and the perceived threat to employees is gone, Hovatter said, no further investigation is planned. He added that workers who accused Husted remain fearful of being identified publicly, so further inquiry might “seem like victimizing them again.”

The Game and Fish Commission sets Arizona policies for wildlife harvesting and conservation. Commissioners are appointed by the governor to five-year terms.

Husted was in his final year. A biography that recently was removed from the Game and Fish website said he is married and serves as a deacon at his church in Springerville. It describes him as a former deputy sheriff in Pima County, past Town Council member in Eagar and a lifelong hunter with strong ties to ranching.

Husted also serves as one of about 10 reserve game wardens — volunteer law-enforcement officers utilized by the Game and Fish Department. Hovatter said he has not left that position.

As a commissioner, Husted drew the ire of environmentalists for his opposition to protection for Mexican gray wolves and his hostility toward the Endangered Species Act.

Last year, Husted gained notoriety when he directed a juvenile hunter to shoot a prairie dog unlawfully.

He self-reported the incident, saying he did not realize the season had expired even though he adopted the regulation as a commissioner and enforced it as a warden. Husted complained when he received a citation, which eventually was dismissed by prosecutors.

This story was published by the Arizona Republic
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You can submit a letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic here.

Talking points you can include in your letter are:


Jack Husted’s resignation is good news for Arizona’s wolves and other wildlife.  For years, he worked to undermine the recovery of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves. It is to be hoped that the commission will change its obstructive policies towards these important animals now.

As a commissioner, Husted ignored his responsibilities for protecting endangered species like Mexican wolves and repeatedly showed disrespect for the state’s wildlife. We need commissioners who base decisions on solid science and respect for all of the state’s wildlife.

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