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By DAVE TAYLOR
Landmark News Service
A settlement has been reached by Trimble County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Sharon and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources regarding Sharon’s Sept. 28, 2012, termination of employment as a conservation officer with the department.
Sharon, of Worthville, began his law enforcement career in the early 1970s as a trooper with the Kentucky State Police and remained with KSP for 31 years. Shortly after his retirement he became a conservation officer with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife resources in September 2004.
Complaints against Sharon were filed with the Kentucky Ethics Commission while he served as a conservation officer and after he had begun a commercial fishing business. The ethics violation charges were for activities between April 2007 and April 2011 and led to his termination by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In December 2012, Sharon signed off on a plea agreement saying he violated the Executive Branch Code of Ethics for using his influence to benefit himself and others in his commercial fishing business. In the ethics settlement, Sharon agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty, received a public reprimand and waived any right to appeal.
Sharon, however, did appeal histermination by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. A settlement of that case was reached in October.
“I want to point out, first, that this does not mean that KDFWR dropped the charges against me,” Sharon said. “Instead, this was a settlement made by them so I would drop my appeal to the termination and not try to be re-installed.”
A copy of the settlement agreement between the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources and Dennis Sharon was obtained through an Open Records request. The agreement was signed by Sharon and Tiffany N. Yeast, executive director of Human Resources, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, on Oct. 22, 2013.
The document states in part that both parties agreed to a compromise, “and shall not at any time or for any purpose be construed as an admission by either party of any liability via contract or other wrongful conduct.”
The cabinet agreed to pay Sharon a lump sum of $30,000 in a one-time settlement and the litigation was dismissed. The settlement “was in addition to being paid for 10 months while on administrative leave with pay,” Sharon said.
Sharon’s termination was based on four charges, one of which was not work related, he said, “and the other three were totally false. In each of the charges that were false I had one or more witnesses that would have proven my side of the story. However, in each case not one of the witnesses was ever contacted and interviewed. In fact, I asked my bosses three times for an investigation to be completed. However, that was never done.”
Sharon believes his termination came about “because I had been openly critical about how the department was being run. It is important, I think, to point out that the two people who pushed for my termination have resigned and are being investigated for various reasons, including intimidating employees. Employee intimidation of employees was their management style.”
Additionally, charges filed against Sharon in Indiana have been dismissed regarding a 2010 incident in which Sharon was arrested by Indiana Department of Natural Resources officers for transporting for sale four paddlefish with eggs that were allegedly caught in waters closed to commercial fishing. That charge was dismissed on Oct. 29 by Switzerland County, Ind., Circuit Court Judge W. Gregory Coy.
“This charge was based on several lies and/or misrepresentations made by one of the Indiana game wardens,” Sharon said. “When the case came before the judge it was dropped because the evidence did not support the claims made by the game wardens.”
In connection with the same incident, Sharon was found guilty of a charge of fishing without an Indiana Commercial Fishing License, for which he paid a $200 fine plus $188 in court costs.
“I did plead guilty to fishing without a license,” Sharon said. “Due to my taking radiation treatments for the month prior, I simply forgot to renew my commercial fishing license for the first five days of March.”
Sharon has served as a deputy with the Trimble County Sheriff’s Department since March, assigned primarily to clerical duties.
“I would like to thank Sheriff Tim Coons for believing in me and taking time to investigate these charges and then allowing me to serve the people of Trimble County with him,” Sharon said. “He is truly a professional police officer who believes in doing the best job possible for the people of the county.”