HELENA – A top staff member for Rep. Denny Rehberg has been put on voluntary leave and is facing poaching charges in Madison County for allegedly taking an elk out of season and abandoning the carcass.
Randy Vogel was named Rehberg’s state director on March 1. Two days later, the 57-year-old aide was cited by a state game warden for allegedly poaching a young bull elk on the Bar K Ranch near Ennis in November, court records show.
Vogel is due to appear in court next week on four charges: harvesting a spike bull elk during closed season, abandoning the carcass in the field, killing more than one elk without authorization and obstruction of a peace officer.
Rehberg spokesman Jed Link says the congressman was unaware of the allegations until after Vogel’s appointment. Link said Tuesday that Vogel asked for and was granted an indefinite leave without pay on March 5.
“Randy was not a member of Congressman Rehberg’s staff at the time of the incident,” Link said. “Congressman Rehberg was unaware of the incident in question until Randy informed him of it after receiving notice of the ticket”
Vogel did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday from The Associated Press.
If found guilty of all four charges, he faces up to 6 months imprisonment and fines of $3,100 plus restitution, said Madison County Clerk of Justice Court Liz Parrish.
Two other hunters were with Vogel at the time of the incident, although neither has been charged, according to Madison County Attorney Chris Christensen and Warden Capt. Sam Sheppard with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Neither Sheppard nor Christensen would discuss details of the case, citing a pending March 16 hearing before Justice MaryAnn O’Malley in Virginia City.
Vogel, who lives in Billings, also served as Rehberg’s state director from 2001 to 2007. The post put him in charge of the staff at Rehberg’s offices in Billings, Helena, Great Falls and Missoula.
Before joining Rehberg’s staff, he was a police officer for more than 20 years and the owner of three small businesses.
Former Rehberg state director Dustin Frost resigned March 1 to pursue a private consulting business in Billings, after suffering a severe head injury in a boat crash last summer on Flathead Lake.
State Sen. Greg Barkus of Kalispell, his wife, Rehberg and his deputy chief of staff, Kristin Smith, also were injured in that crash.
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