- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The House’s top investigator said Wednesday that a federal agency’s decision to pursue criminal charges against a tree trimmer for accidentally disturbing bird nests in California highlights a troubling disparity in how private citizens and misbehaving government workers are treated.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a letter that tree-cutter Ernesto Pulido’s accidental actions pale when compared to some of the misdeeds of federal employees who spend hours a day looking at pornography at work, or who otherwise bilk taxpayers.

Hired by the Postal Service to trim trees at a parking lot in Oakland — where bird droppings ended up on mail trucks — Mr. Pulido cut limbs containing Black-crowned Night Herons, according to the letter.

Federal wildlife investigators found no birds were killed — and a San Francisco Chronicle story noted Mr. Pulido is paying for the care of the injured birds — but he still could face up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine, Mr. Issa wrote.

By contrast, Mr. Issa said, federal employees have been getting away with far worse.

He listed recent misconduct cases turned down for prosecution such as employees taking gifts from lobbyists, spending hours a day watching pornography at work, lying on time cards and spending “outrageous sums” on wasteful conferences in Las Vegas.

“When so many government workers are offered a pass, referring and prioritizing charges against a private citizen for incidental and relatively minor injuries to a non-endangered species — commissioned by a federal agency no less — appears nothing short of bureaucratic bullying,” Mr. Issa wrote.

Mr. Issa gave Fish and Wildlife officials until June 11 to provide emails and other documents related to the agency’s decision to recommend charges against Mr. Pulido.

A spokeswoman for the agency said Wednesday that officials were recommending misdemeanor charges against Mr. Pulido for violating the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to The Associated Press.

Investigators are recommending a $1,500 fine instead of the maximum penalty against Mr. Pulido because he’s expressed remorse, according to the AP.

While initial reports suggested witnessed were alarmed by baby birds falling to the ground and being fed to a wood chipper, investigators confirmed no birds were killed, although some were injured, according to the Chronicle.

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