Lawsuit seeks removal of Kentucky wildlife commissioner

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Two months after the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources rehired its former commissioner despite objections from Gov. Andy Beshear, a lawsuit has been filed seeking his removal.

Oldham County sportsman Larry Richards filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Along with removing Commissioner Rich Storm, Richards is asking the court to find that the wildlife commission violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act “in partaking in closed meetings for unauthorized purposes and without sufficient public notice.”

Richards filed the lawsuit against the commission and its board chairman, Karl Clinard.

Clinard declined to comment Thursday, saying he had not seen the lawsuit. Kevin Kelly, a spokesman for the department, said Storm “has not seen the lawsuit, so it would be premature for him to comment about it.”

The Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 6-1 in April to approve a new contract for Storm that will pay him $140,000 annually to start with a 5% salary increase after the first year.

Storm had been working under a two-year contract for $140,000 a year before the Beshear administration stopped paying him last July. Clinard said the wildlife commission added a pay increase and a longer contract length “to make sure we can keep someone qualified. I think it’s a bargain.”

The move was made possible by the Republican-led legislature, which approved a new law over Beshear’s veto that allows the Fish and Wildlife board to appoint its own commissioner and set the salary for the job.