ALBANY — Lax supervision within the state Department of Environmental Conservation allowed a forest ranger to have sexual relationships while on duty, cheat the taxpayers on time sheets and use agency gear at an upstate gym he ran as a sideline, the Inspector General’s office charged Tuesday.
An 18-page report issued by Letizia Tagliafierro, the inspector general, found that the ranger’s misconduct was “facilitated by systemic deficiencies in field leadership and supervision in the Division of Forest Protection that resulted in a lack of proper oversight and accountability.”
The ranger, identified as Charles Richardson, while moonlighting as a part-time village of Boonville police officer, also collected pay for both the state ranger job and his cop employment on overlapping hours four times, from 2017 to 2018, the inspector general said.
State investigators obtained a sworn statement from a woman who said she and Richardson had sex on several occasions in late 2018 and early 2019 while the ranger was on duty, wearing his uniform, “on or near state forest lands,” according to Tagliafierro’s report.
A second woman gave sworn testimony that she and Richardson had sex at a state office in early 2016 after he arrived at the building in a marked forest ranger vehicle.
The report said that Richardson denied having sex with the first woman during his work hours in a state facility, but did not know it was against agency rules to hike with civilians. The report made no mention of his response to the allegations involving the second woman.
The union for state rangers, the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, said it is contesting the “uncorroborated” allegations against Richardson, who is also known as Chad Richardson and resides in Oneida County.
“Not only is this PBA fully backing Chad Richardson, but many of his fellow rangers are backing him, and several made financial donations to help him during this period of suspension,” the union’s director and counsel, Dan De Federicis, told CNHI.
“This would not happen if they felt the allegations against him were true,” DeFedericis added.
De Federicis said the union is assisting Richardson in the state disciplinary proceeding, and said that in some cases, the state’s allegations are “refuted by other evidence.”
The inspector general recommended that DEC, an agency headed by Commissioner Basil Seggos, revise its policies to require more meetings between supervisors and rangers and revise inventory policies to “ensure the integrity of assets.”
In response, DEC, in a statement released by agency spokeswoman Maureen Wren, said the ranger has been suspended without pay. In addition, this year the agency hired a new deputy commissioner for public protection and a director of the Division of Forest Protection.
“DEC has no tolerance for inappropriate behavior, misappropriation of resources, or disregarding the policies in place to ensure the accountability of our professional staff and our duty to protect public resources,” the agency said in the statement released by Wren.
In New York, forest rangers are police officers who enforce both the state Penal Law and the Environmental Conservation Law.
The report said although Richardson never got agency clearance to open the Black River Training Academy gym in Boonville, he did get permission from a supervisor to take the job as a part-time cop.
Richardson opened the gym in 2014. A former gym employee told investigators that several pieces of workout equipment at the gym were ordered by Richardson for the DEC training academy in Pulaski while he worked there as an instructor, the report said.
The inspector general said a 2017 photo on the gym’s Facebook page appeared to be equipment purchased for the academy, noting it was Richardson who had ordered the equipment for the state facility.