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Game commission bureau director may be subject of probe

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

It appears as though an ethics investigation involving a Pennsylvania Game Commission bureau director is ongoing.

Last September, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Butler County Republican who serves as chairman of the state government committee, asked the state Ethics Commission to investigate Bill Capouillez. He serves as director of the Game Commission's bureau of wildlife habitat management.

In that role, he negotiates oil and gas leases for the agency.

At the same time, he's worked in his off hours as a consultant, negotiating leases — often with the same energy companies — for private landowners.

The Game Commission looked into his private work several years ago, when complaints about the fairness of Capouillez's wearing public and private hats first arose. The agency found no fault.

Others, though, including competitors in the industry, have continued to charge that his state job represents an unfair advantage, if not a conflict of interest.

That prompted Metcalfe to call for the investigation.

Robert Caruso, executive director of the ethics commission, would not speak to whether an investigation was opened, or whether it's moved from the preliminary to the active stage, as some have speculated in recent weeks.

“I can't confirm or deny, by law, if any investigation is open, whether preliminary or active,” Caruso said.

But he added that “you can put two and two together, based on what you're hearing.”

No results of any review should be expected soon.

The ethics commission, which has a staff of five investigators, handles about 80 to 100 cases a year, Caruso said. Most take a year to complete, he added.

The game commission, though spokesman Travis Lau, declined to comment on the matter, categorizing it as a personnel issue.

For his part, Metcalfe repeated his contention that the idea of anyone working for the state by day and in the same industry by night fails the “common sense” test.

If the ethics commission decides that Capioullez's outside work doesn't represent a conflict, the law is flawed and needs changed, he said.

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

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