Pa. legislator to probe dual roles of wildlife agent

William Capouillez oversees gas leases for a state agency and consults on them in his free time.
William Capouillez oversees gas leases for a state agency and consults on them in his free time.
Posted: September 18, 2013

A powerful Pennsylvania legislator has asked for an investigation of an official who oversees natural gas development on state game lands at the same time that he moonlights as a consultant to private landowners on Marcellus Shale issues.

State Rep. Daryl D. Metcalfe (R., Butler), the chairman of the House Committee on State Government, said he has asked the State Ethics Commission to investigate conflict of interet allegations against the wildlife agency official, William A. Capouillez.

The Inquirer reported last month that Capouillez, who oversees oil and gas leasing on 1.4 million acres of public game lands, operates a prosperous business in his off-hours negotiating gas leases for private landowners.

Rival gas-leasing agents have complained for years that Capouillez's state job as director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management gives him an unfair advantage. But the game commission has sanctioned the activity and said it does not violate state ethics laws.

Capouillez, who is paid about $76,000 by the state, earns a share of the fees and royalties paid to landowners for whom he negotiated oil and gas leases. Many of the companies he negotiated with in a private capacity also are drilling on state game lands.

"It's highly improper with that kind of daytime job that he would be moonlighting in the same business," Metcalfe said in an interview. "It's almost like inside trading."

Metcalfe said that if the ethics commission fails to find that Capouillez's dual roles violated the state ethics law then he would seek to amend the law to prohibit such double-dipping.

"His behavior makes the case for additional work on the ethics law," he said.

Metcalfe's committee is considering several bills to tighten state ethics rules. His complaints about Capouillez were first reported by the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

Capouillez did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Pennsylvania's ethics law prohibits state employees from using confidential information or the "authority" of their employment for "private pecuniary benefit." It also requires employees to declare the sources of the outside earnings.

Capouillez disclosed his outside work, but disclosure does not immunize an employee from conflict, Robert Caruso, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said in an interview this summer.

He said the Ethics Commission had no record of ruling on a complaint about Capouillez.

Capouillez's superior, Carol Roe, executive director of the state Board of Game Commissioners, declined to comment last month, calling the issue a personnel matter.

But the president of the same commission, whose eight members are appointed by the governor, said that the commission was satisfied with Capouillez's performance.

"I don't know the legalities of this stuff, but I think he's passed muster on everything," said Robert W. Schlemmer, a Westmoreland County businessman who heads the commission.


Contact Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947, @Maykuth or amaykuth@phillynews.com

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