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Call for Jezioro’s firing draws sharp response

Cully McCurdy is angry.

McCurdy, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional biologist for West Virginia and Virginia, believes members of the West Virginia Legislature have blamed the wrong man for the recent failure of the so-call “deer farming” bill.

After the bill failed to pass, 39 lawmakers signed letters that urged Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to fire Frank Jezioro, the state’s Division of Natural Resources Director. The letters accused Jezioro of lobbying against the bill and stirring up sportsmen’s groups to oppose it. Those accusations infuriated McCurdy.

“The letter was hugely troubling for me,” he said. “They [legislators] accused me and other representatives of sportsmen’s groups of being puppets of the director, or front men for him.

“Accusations like that are degrading to sportsmen of our state. The idea that we would have to have someone to tell us what to think is extremely insulting.”

McCurdy said the charge that Jezioro had lobbied against the bill couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“The last time I talked to the director was on Sept. 10. I asked him about the [deer farming] bill, which I knew was going to be introduced. He said he wasn’t going to fight it. He told me, ‘If the sportsmen don’t fight it, it must mean they want it to go through.’”

McCurdy is also upset by his treatment at the hands of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick and several members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee during a Jan. 29 hearing about the deer-farming bill.

“I tried to tell the committee why sportsmen were opposed to the bill. I got one sentence out before I was interrupted and berated, and that continued throughout the whole time I spoke,” McCurdy said.

“I was treated like a dog. They had no interest in what I had to say on behalf of the sportsmen I was representing.”

McCurdy said Helmick “accosted” him after the meeting,

“I know ‘accosted’ is a strong word, but that’s the most accurate way to describe it. The first thing he asked me was what [deer farming] had to do with turkeys.

“Then he asked if Jezioro had put me up to speaking at the meeting. Anytime I tried to say something, he talked over me.”

Helmick was one of the bill’s principal proponents. Had it passed, the measure would have transferred authority over deer farms from the DNR to Helmick’s agency, the Department of Agriculture.

McCurdy called Helmick’s question about Jezioro’s alleged lobbying “suspicious, in light of the fact that [Helmick] lobbied hard for this legislation, both in the Legislature and the press.”

McCurdy urged Gov. Tomblin and Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette to “ask specific questions and demand that legislators prove the allegations they’ve made” before taking action on the letters demanding Jezioro’s ouster.

“If those letters lead to the director’s firing, I hope the governor and the secretary have thoroughly substantiated all of the allegations. If they haven’t, it sets a very dangerous precedent.”

Tomblin has issued statement that he and Burdette had discussed the matter and were considering which actions to take.

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