Report: DEC forest ranger stole, had ‘inappropriate’ sexual encounters

Report: DEC forest ranger stole, had ‘inappropriate’ sexual encounters
Investigation (Source: MGN)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - A Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest ranger stole state property, had ‘inappropriate’ sexual encounters while on duty, failed to file paperwork over and over again and broke other state rules.

That’s all according to New York’s Inspector General, Letizia Tagliafierro, who issued a scathing report Tuesday about Charles Richardson, a DEC forest ranger who worked in northern New York.

Tagliafierro found “a pattern of supervisory shortcomings” allowed Richardson to do what he did.

Tagliafierro said the DEC has since “enacted significant reforms” to prevent abuses from happening in the future.

Richardson could not be reached for comment, but a statement from the DEC said the agency has “commenced disciplinary action” against him, as of the end of June.

In the statement, the DEC said “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.”

According to the Inspector General’s report, Richardson “engaged in inappropriate sexual encounters while on duty on at least two occasions.”

In one case, the sexual encounters involved a woman who said “Richardson was in his forest ranger uniform on some of these occasions and their activities occurred on or near State forest lands,” according to the report.

In another, Richardson engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman inside a DEC facility, according to the report.

Richardson denied to investigators doing anything wrong.

In addition, Richardson worked as a part-time police officer in Boonville during his DEC working hours, according to the report.

While working as the head physical training instructor at the DEC training academy in Pulaski, Richardson ordered the construction of 15 wooden “jump boxes,” according to the report.

“The Inspector General’s investigation found that several of the boxes ended up at his private gym,” according to a statement from the Inspector General, which said Richardson is part-owner of “Black River Training Company,” a gym in Boonville. Jump boxes can be seen in a photo on the gym’s web site.

According to the Black River Training Company’s web site, the gym closed permanently in March because of COVID.

The Inspector general also found:

- Richardson failed to file reports and time sheets over and over again.

- He failed to abide by residency rules which require rangers to live within the area to which they’re assigned. According to the report, Richardson was promoted to lieutenant and was supervising six rangers in Monroe County, and claimed his new address was in Hilton, NY, when in fact he was commuting from Boonville, a trip which took three hours each way.

- Richardson was able to do what he did because of ineffective supervision. Rangers are “infrequently supervised,” according to the report, and infractions are often overlooked.

- Also, the residency rules are sometimes ignored. “In fact, the investigation found that when several forest rangers were promoted or transferred to other DEC regions, they openly flouted DEC’s residency policy by commuting far distances to report to their new duty locations,” according to the report.

The DEC said Monday it has has a new Deputy Commissioner for Public Protection, whose job it is to oversee the rangers and improve operations.

“DEC will take any and all appropriate actions upon the completion of our review of the report,” the agency said in a statement.

Copyright 2020 WWNY. All rights reserved.