After our most recent article on the State Game and Fish Department's Macho B internal investigation transcripts, the Star received this comment from Jim Paxon, the department's information branch chief. We are running the response in its entirety and welcome any comments, pro or con.
We received and reviewed the article in Sunday’s (Feb 6, 2011) paper. Here are our comments as well as facts that should have been daylighted in your article:
We both agree that there were coordination and communications challenges from within the department. Arizona Game and Fish Department is made up of passionate, intelligent and experienced individuals trying their very best to get both their individual job assignments completed as well as move department priorities forward. Disagreements are fundamental to solving problems and as issues develop, theories are tested and we learn from actual experience, as they are in any dynamic organization,…including yours. Many of our staff are in remote locations and do not have routine daily contact with the regional offices or with headquarters in Phoenix. Our department operational norm in relationships with our partners and cooperators is to attack issues,…not each other. Emil McCain did in fact use relationships to his advantage. Some individuals are chagrined at being taken advantage of by McCain. A hard lesson learned
In the 1900 + pages of transcripts from our internal investigation, we did NOT “edit” them. Some portions were redacted due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation, but that was very little material. Nothing was changed from the original transcripts as recorded by a contracted, certified court reporter. These transcripts were placed voluntarily on our website, simply because we thought it was the right thing to do.
Emil McCain was certainly correct in his guilty plea when he stated that HE had no authorization to intentionally capture a jaguar. Arizona Game and Fish Department did have an existing permit for managing endangered species, including “take issues” with U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but neither McCain nor any AzGFD employee was authorized by the Director to intentionally capture a jaguar under the auspices of that permit. Again, at the time of Macho B.’s initial capture, Mr. McCain was not affiliated with Arizona Game and Fish, was neither a formal cooperator nor an agent and certainly was not authorized by us to intentionally capture a jaguar. That still has no effect on the permit that we had at that time with Fish and Wildlife Service. Your article indicated otherwise by innuendo. That is a distinction that we feel should be made obvious to the public reading your articles.
The collar that was put on Macho B was a collar that North Star Science and Technology donated to the Borderland Jaguar Detection Project and was in Emil McCain’s possession. Mr. McCain gave the collar to Thorry Smith, in case it were needed. It never was the property of Arizona Game and Fish Department. There was an agreement with B.J.D.P to share the monitoring information from that collar. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also concurred with that agreement.
The department initiated training regarding the Endangered Species Act and the required steps for permitting for all appropriate personne. Likewise, Environmental Assessment Checklist training has been implemented and is required of all appropriate personnel. Both of these trainings are in our annual new employee schedule with refreshers for existing employees.
Janay Brun’s information being made public was the impetus for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s investigation. We had called for our own investigation, but the Fish and Wildlife Service asked us to delay initiating our investigation until they had time to interview individuals in which they had interest. Our investigation began only after the Center for Bio-Diversity filed a lawsuit on the question of the “take permit” that we had with the Fish and Wildlife Service. In preparation for responding to the court for the C.B.D. lawsuit, our attorneys required us to investigate thoroughly our staff and all individuals in the department who were involved, which made us unable to comply with the USFWS request for delay. Remember that the C.B.D.’s lawsuit was dismissed in July 2010, which was not revealed by your publication until just recently.
When Macho B was recaptured, we were working in full concert with Fish and Wildlife Service and members of their staff were on scene with our folks. His recapture, examination and subsequent euthanization was fully discussed and concurred by U.S.F.W.S.
We still do not have results of at least two independent, internationally recognized labs, which tested tissue and blood from Macho B for kidney failure. Preliminary results indicated that the veterinarian staff of the Phoenix Zoo tested and acted appropriately. We made an F.O.I.A. request to Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General for those lab results and were denied. We will not have those results until the Fish and Wildlife Service closes their investigation and makes said results available. As of now, no one else has access to those results unless they become public during Ms. Brun’s trial. When we have those results in hand, rest assured that we will make them public,…as we have told you and others repeatedly and stated such in our news releases.
Lastly, many changes have been implemented by leadership in the Arizona Game and Fish Department to correct deficiencies that we have observed and to improve internal communications. We anticipate that the future holds more changes as situations morph and technology develops. We look forward to facing those challenges in managing and conserving Arizona’s wildlife and natural resources.
(From Tony Davis): Paxon's letter didn't mention that Game and Fish's decision to post the Macho B investigation transcripts came after the Star filed a public records request for those documents, and the department and the Star's management and attorney worked out a deal to have redacted transcripts released to us.