Parks Chief Faces Scrutiny after Logging Verdict ; County Commissioner Says Jeff Hutchinson Should Resign

By Marks, Rusty | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Parks Chief Faces Scrutiny after Logging Verdict ; County Commissioner Says Jeff Hutchinson Should Resign


Marks, Rusty, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


The president of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission said parks officials should review court transcripts of this week's timber theft trial before deciding if disciplinary action should be taken against Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson. "I'll probably turn it over to the [Parks Commission's] personnel committee to review, said retired state Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett, president of the county parks board.

On Wednesday, logger David Russell Bowen was acquitted of charges alleging he stole timber from Coonskin Park in May and June 2013.

Bowen had made an agreement with Hutchinson to remove trees and debris from Coonskin left over from the 2012 derecho in exchange for tax write-offs.

But there was never a written contract. Hutchinson and parks officials said Bowen was authorized to cut down 31 trees, but Bowen eventually cut 360 before the operation was halted by the state Division of Forestry.

Members of the county parks commission approved the arrangement with Bowen, and stood behind Hutchinson when the scope of the timbering done by Bowen was discovered. But Tackett said parks commission members might reconsider Hutchinson's part in the arrangement now that prosecutors have lost their case against Bowen.

At the time the timbering operation was discovered, several people - including Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper - wondered how a logging job that big could have gone on without Hutchinson or other parks employees or parks officials knowing about it. Jurors may have felt the same way, finding Bowen innocent Wednesday of charges of destruction of property, willful damage to timber and obtaining timber by false pretenses.

Although the Kanawha County Commission doesn't have the power to discipline the parks director, it does have the ability to appoint members of the parks commission. County Commissioner Dave Hardy said he was not happy with Hutchinson's handling of the logging agreement.

"I like Jeff personally, but he's been reprimanded by the [state] ethics commission twice, and now there's this debacle with the timbering, Hardy said. …

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