Bill Geer, the ousted chief of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says Utah's lieutenant governor asked him not to prosecute county and local officials caught on wildlife violations, but Geer refused.
Geer said that Lt. Gov. Val Oveson asked that Geer give Gov. Norm Bangerter a free fishing license. Geer said he refused because Utah isn't one of the states that offers such licenses to its executives, as some do.More seriously, Geer said the speaker of the Utah House, Rep. Glen E. Brown, R-Coalville, pestered Geer for 11/2 years trying to have a friend of Brown's hired with the Division of Wildlife Resources. The man wasn't hired.
Geer said Brown may have been irritated too because Geer denied Brown's request to put a new dump in the middle of an elk range at Wallsburg, Wasatch County.
Brown responded that Geer is striking out, using him as a lightning rod for his own anger.
Geer made these specific comments, and others responded:
-On Oveson's supposed request about not prosecuting county or local officials. "In August of '87 he did ask me if I'd be willing to extend `professional courtesy' to county commissioners and local politicians, and just not arrest them on wildlife violations. He took me up in a car and asked me."
Geer said the state was dedicating the Weber-Delta Unit and celebrating the new duck stamp. Oveson and Geer drove together to Ogden Bay for the ceremony, where they both spoke, he said.
"And that's when he asked me. I said `No, that's not something I can do. That's just not proper," Geer said.
Oveson denied on television Monday that he had made the statement. Geer said, "Too bad. It's still true."
Dave Hansen, Oveson's deputy lieutenant governor, told the Deseret News he was in the vehicle with Geer and Oveson. Hansen's first reaction to Geer's allegation was, "bull----."
"It's so out of character for Val to ask for something like that. He's so honest," Hansen said.
But Geer said he has heard Oveson was out to get him.
-On the charge that Brown pestered Geer for a job for a friend.
The friend was notified when there were field construction jobs so he could submit applications, Geer said. He never was hired. "Over a year and a half he (Brown) called me about that repeatedly. It's pressure when the speaker of the House calls me about a friend and asked me to change job descriptions.
"He (Brown) felt our job descriptions were not correct and if we changed the job descriptions he (the friend) could qualify."
Brown said he is offended by Geer's statements. The man involved lost his job when the Legislature abolished the Utah Division of Contractors.
The man had to get back into state employment or he'd lose his spot in a seniority list important at times of layoffs. Brown said he felt the man was qualified for a job that had opened up at the DWR.
"I talked to Bill. I said I was comfortable recommending him for the job. At no time did I ask for anything that would violate procedures."
He charged that Geer changed the job description, adding some responsibilities, so that only people with college degrees in wildlife management would qualify. Brown said this is where he got into a disagreement with Geer, asking why he had changed the description.
Brown said he tried to convince Geer the man was qualified even though the job description was changed.
-On the dump. Geer said that for 31 years the state has been buying the range at Wallsburg for the use of elk and has accumulated 12,000 acres.
Geer said he decided the dump would be better at the edge of the elk range than in the center of it and worked out a compromise to that effect. But this decision irritated Brown, he said.
Brown said the issue was a simple difference of opinion. "I have a hard time believing 40 acres would ruin their habitat," he said.
"How do the deer know it's in the middle of their land?"
Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff, said about the dump issue, "That was one where Bill Geer did the right thing."
Brown did not deny that he asked the governor to get rid of Geer. But he added, "I never sought to destroy Bill Geer's integrity. I haven't talked to the governor about this issue for some time."
Scruggs said Geer was fired because he couldn't get along with elected city officials, ranchers, developers and other non-wildlife groups.
He said Geer wasn't being let go for any lack of dedication to wildlife and hunting issues.
"Geer worked well with wildlife people and with people who wanted to shoot wildlife," Scruggs said. "He kept both of those groups happy. The problem came when people who didn't fit into those two categories needed help."