Report questions state travel spending

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - A new report says a commissioner at the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources spent more than any other state worker on travel from 2008 to now, but officials at the department say there's a good reason.

"Spending $71,000 to bring in $15 million? We should do it again next week!" said Fish and Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Marraccini.

An Associated Press report showed Fish and Wildlife Resources commissioner Jonathan Gassett has rung up more than $71,000 in travel expenses since 2008. According to that report, that's that's tens of thousands more than other state employees. Critics in the report say that shows carelessnes with public money, but Marraccini says that's not the case.

"We spent $71,000 in four and a half years to bring in $15 million that would have gone to other states. That's what you need to do to keep those revenue streams alive, keep them flowing, keep them healthy," said Marraccini.

The report says Gassett took 20 trips to Washington, DC and more than 20 other states. Marraccini says that's because he serves as national president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, or AFWA.

"As president, it's his job to go to Washington and speak with one voice, one voice for fifty state agencies out there and that helps secure our federal funding," said Marraccini.

Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Stuart Ray says the department doesn't get general fund tax dollars, but is funded through revenue generated by fishing and hunting license fees. He says the recession has caused that revenue to decline. Marraccini says that makes it even more important for Gassett to be in Washington pushing for money.

Gassett's tenure as president of AFWA is coming to an end. Officials said they expect his travel to be scaled back.

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