Retired Pa. Game Commission chief to get $220K severance payment
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Game Commission plans to give its retired executive director $220,000, which a top lawyer to Gov. Tom Corbett calls an “improper severance agreement” that would drain resources from sportsmen’s programs.
The payment to Carl Roe of Carlisle is awaiting approval by the state Attorney General’s Office for “form and legality.”
Roe, who retired on Jan. 17, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office is seeking “clarity” on certain issues and awaits a response from the commission, said her spokesman Joe Peters. The office will have 30 days to decide, he said.
“It’s unconscionable they would be using public dollars from sportsmen and hunters to pay a severance package to a former employee,” said Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Corbett.
Jarad W. Handelman, first executive deputy general counsel for Corbett, told Kane’s office that he has “serious concerns about the legality” of the agreement.
Joseph Neville, director of information and education for the Game Commission, said he was unaware of the pending payment.
“We didn’t address that at all” in the public announcement of Roe’s retirement, he said.
In a letter to Adrian King, Kane’s first deputy, Handelman asked the office to give the agreement “especially close scrutiny.”
“Sportsmen, conservationists and countless Pennsylvanians depend on responsible public officials to assure that all Game Fund dollars are spent only for legally proper purposes,” Handelman wrote.
Bob Schlemmer, the commission president, and Dave Putnam, the vice president, could not be reached.
The attorney general approved a version of an agreement between the Game Commission and Roe last year, according to Handelman’s letter. But the comptroller flagged the proposed payment, Pagni said.
General Counsel James D. Schultz’s office, where Handelman works, asked the commission to clarify the payment because it “appeared on its face to be a severance agreement” in violation of the state’s administrative code.
The proposed agreement “was intended in part to settle potential claims that Roe might make” against his former agency, the commission told Schultz’s office.
“We are skeptical that Roe, a strictly at-will employee of the (commission), has any claims he could credibly or legitimately make against (the commission),” Handelman wrote.
Handelman said his office was “convinced that the (commission) has agreed to pay Roe $220,000 as compensation to induce him to retire months earlier than he had intended and to agree to terms of confidentiality respecting his tenure with the (commission) and the circumstances of his severance.”
Because the Game Commission is an independent state agency, the governor’s lawyers can only advise the comptroller on processing of the agreement, Handelman said.
Roe was hired by the agency as a long-term planner in 2001. Four years later, commissioners named him executive director.
He came to the Game Commission after 30 years in the Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam. He retired as a colonel, according to his biography on the state website.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].