- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

RICHMOND (AP) — The former board chairman of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has called for the agency’s top managers to resign or be removed amid revelations that the department’s top officials used state credit cards to outfit a safari to Africa.

J. Carson Quarles, chairman of the department’s board from 1998 to 2002, said he is joining a group of former board members and chairmen in seeking the removal of William L. Woodfin Jr. and two other department members.

Mr. Quarles also called on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries board to replace its chairman, Daniel A. Hoffler, who led the safari and paid most of the trip’s expenses for the game officials.

“From my 37 years in banking … I clearly learned that when situations exist that involve damaged public trust, negative press relations, deteriorating staff morale and questionable management decisions, it becomes impossible to right a ship without a management change,” he said in a written statement obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and published Friday.

In response, Mr. Hoffler said he won’t quit as chairman. He questioned the motives of Mr. Quarles, a Republican campaign contributor who was replaced on the board by Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.

“I’m very disappointed that a former chairman would blindside the department in this manner,” Mr. Hoffler said.

Mr. Quarles, a retired Roanoke businessman, said in an interview that he struggled with the decision because of his long-standing support of Mr. Woodfin’s leadership at the agency and friendships with department officials. However, he said, the agency’s leaders had failed to take steps to address legitimate concerns about the department’s management.

Mr. Quarles issued the statement because he had agreed to sign a letter that will be sent to the board and the governor from a number of former game officials before the next board meeting on March 24.

Mr. Woodfin has been a state employee for more than 35 years, primarily at the former State Water Control Board. He briefly led the former Department of Waste Management before being appointed to head the game department in 1994 by Gov. George Allen.

Mr. Woodfin could not be reached for comment.

The controversy began on Christmas Day when the Times-Dispatch reported that Mr. Woodfin and other agency officials had used state credit cards to buy an estimated $12,000 in equipment for a safari to Zimbabwe. The safari was intended as a work trip to study game conservation methods in Africa, but it became a personal vacation after Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. said it could not be financed or sponsored by the state.

The state’s internal auditor has not issued any findings on an investigation.

Mr. Murphy told the newspaper, “I have said repeatedly that I am not going to judge the agency until we receive the auditor’s report and find out what the facts are.”

The secretary said the use of state credit cards is separate from the safari, because Mr. Woodfin and two top deputies, Maj. Michael Caison and Col. Terry Bradbery, used personal vacation time for the trip.

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