Corbett warns against employee promotion

HARRISBURG – Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office has warned the state Game Commission not to consider promoting a senior official in charge of wildlife habitat management to executive director, citing ethics questions.

Corbett’s objection came this week as the state attorney general’s office weighs whether to approve a $220,000 Game Commission payment to its recently retired executive director, Carl Roe, to settle potential legal claims against each other.

On Tuesday, Corbett’s first executive deputy general counsel, Jarad Handelman, wrote to the Game Commission’s chief counsel, Bradley Bechtel, to urge him “in the strongest possible terms” to advise commissioners against considering William Capouillez for the top post.

Handelman said it’s clear that the State Ethics Commission is investigating whether Capouillez had a conflict of interest stemming from his off-hours business negotiating oil and gas leases for private landowners with companies he frequently engaged as a Game Commission employee.

The private and public roles project “a profoundly troubling appearance of impermissible commingling of public responsibility and private pecuniary interest,” Handelman wrote.

He also pointed out that the state’s general counsel in 2010, Barbara Adams, made the same point in a letter to the commission’s executive director at the time.

The Game Commission’s board president, Robert Schlemmer, told Lancaster Newspapers that he agreed with Handelman that it is a matter of serious concern, but he said it’s premature to object since the investigation is unfinished.