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Frye: Lawmaker seeks investigation

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 11:15 p.m.

A local lawmaker has asked the State Ethics Commission to investigate a possible conflict of interest involving the director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bureau of wildlife habitat management.

Bill Capouillez's job with the agency involves, among other things, negotiating oil and gas leases on state game lands.

After work, on his own, he has long had a side business negotiating similar leases for private landowners with those same companies. It's been lucrative; Capouillez said in a recent newspaper article he no longer needs his Game Commission salary for day-to-day living.

Some have complained in the past that represents a conflict of interest, but the Game Commission never has agreed.

Butler County Republican Daryl Metcalfe, majority chairman of the House of Representatives state government committee, wants an outside opinion, however. Last week he asked the ethics commission to examine Capouillez's outside work.

“You can't have an employee of the state doing a job during business hours and then changing hats and negotiating on a private basis after hours with the exact same people,” Metcalfe said. “It's a conflict of interest.”

Metcalfe isn't sure how long an ethics commission investigation may take. Commission officials told him they're short-staffed.

But he expects an investigation to get under way soon, with a ruling delivered this fall, he said.

Game Commission executive director Carl Roe declined to address the issue. Through press secretary Travis Lau, he said it's a personnel issue.

Capouillez disputed the idea of any conflict of interest, however, in a letter released to the media.

“I am confident that if (Metcalfe) were presented with the magnitude of evidence and actual facts regarding my state employment as compared to that of my supplemental employment, he, too, would come to the same conclusions that many already have … that there just simply is no conflict of interest,” he said.

He pointed out that while he still works with previous clients, he hasn't taken a new one in three years. Even at that, he has “consistently complied” with the Governor's Code of Conduct.

“The standards for complying with any ‘supplementary employment' are very high and since my initial supplementary employment approval, I have never been notified of any ethical violations,” he added.

That doesn't seem as if it's going to be enough to satisfy Metcalfe. He said if the ethics commission doesn't find Capouillez to have violated existing statutes, “common sense” says the statutes are not sufficiently strong, and he'll introduce legislation to rework them.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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