Who knew having the state help pay for a transatlantic hunting trip could come back to haunt you?
This past Thursday, Virginia's attorney general unsealed indictments against three former top officials from the state's Game and Wildlife Fisheries Agency. William Woodfin Jr., the agency's former director, and former game wardens Michael Caison and Terry Bradbery face a combined five counts of misspending government funds.
Officially, the indictments donât spell out the circumstances under which the men misused the funds; it only states that the crimes occurred sometime between 2003 and 2004. However, a state audit released in 2005 was highly critical of the general infighting and cronyism amid the departmentâs top officials. The audit harped on one spending item in particular: an African safari.
Okay, so the department didnât entirely finance a safari trip to Zimbabwe for Woodfin, Caison and Bradbery. Rather, Dan Hoffler --a former chairman of the departmentâs oversight board-- paid for most of the trip, suggesting that it would be a learning experience (and Hoffler came along too). But the three men did use state credit cards to pick up a few of the extra costs along the way, such as: rifle bags, digital cameras, four DVD players (always crucial on a hunting trip), and a satellite phone that they used to call their families. All told, Virginia taxpayers ended up footing $11,532 in âtrip expenses.â
All three men have expressed through their lawyers that they intend to plead not guilty to the charges. And it's apparent that the 2005 state audit, which was turned over to investigators years ago, is whatâs at issue in the indictments. Bradberyâs lawyer told reporters âthe state is not out any money whatsoever. This (Africa) trip was approved.â Hoffler, who will not face charges for his role in the affair, admitted to cooperating with the investigation and said he was âextremely disappointedâ in the indictments.