Ethics Complaint Against Rabid Anti-Wolf Legislator
Washington’s Rep. Kretz Threatened University to Fire Scientist and End Research
Washington, DC — A Washington state legislator has engaged in an unrelenting and improper campaign to fire a university professor in retaliation for his peer-reviewed research, according to an ethics complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint charges Deputy Minority Leader Joel Kretz, Representative of the 7th Legislative District, with 14 counts of unethical behavior, including attempted bribery of Washington State University (WSU) administrators and threats against academic researchers in reprisal for their scientific findings.
PEER lodged the complaint with the Washington State Legislative Ethics Board. Under state law, legislators are forbidden from employing “improper means” in their advocacy, such as communications that state employees might reasonably perceive as a threat. The Board has subpoena power and the complaint lists current and former state employees, WSU faculty members, and graduate students as eyewitnesses.
The complaint recounts numerous instances where Rep. Kretz contacted WSU administrators and researchers over the past six years and issued a stream of threats in order to dictate the direction of Washington’s carnivore conservation research, particularly as it related to the interactions of wolves with livestock. For example, Rep. Kretz threatened to withhold funds for WSU’s plant sciences building unless Dr. Robert Wielgus was terminated and his Large Carnivore Conservation Lab defunded.
“Extortion is not a legislative prerogative in the State of Washington,” stated PEER Counsel Adam Carlesco, who filed the complaint, noting that Rep. Kretz has freely admitted to his strong-arm tactics with university administrators and has engaged in violent rhetoric – stating that Dr. Wielgus, one of the foremost carnivore biologists in North America, “ought to be drawn and quartered and a chunk of him left everywhere in the district.” Carlesco added that “Representative Kretz has crossed far beyond the bounds of proper legislative advocacy, wading into the realm of harassment.”
While Rep. Kretz’s strenuous efforts have yet to result in the firing of Dr. Wielgus, they have blocked him from procuring grant funding for large carnivore research and the loss of his summer research salary (which he has had for close to 20 years). In addition, Rep. Kretz subjected Dr. Wielgus to baseless investigations and public denunciations. These actions have halted large carnivore research at WSU and wolf/livestock interaction research across Washington.
A legislator who violates state ethics laws while holding elected office may be required to pay any damages incurred to the state resulting from the violations, costs incurred from necessary investigations, and a civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars.
“Current Washington State University leaders enabled Rep. Kretz’s misconduct by allowing him to influence the content of its scientific work,” Carlesco added, noting that WSU went so far as to issue an inaccurate press release condemning Dr. Wielgus concerning the controversial state action to kill a wolf pack on Profanity Peak in northwestern Washington. “The point of Dr. Wielgus’ research is to show ways in which wolves and other predators can coexist with livestock. Unfortunately, some Washington legislators cannot coexist with scientific research that undermines their political agenda.”