POLSON — A Montana game warden who has been investigating allegations of poaching by law enforcement officers in Lake County was reassigned to another state agency, in part due to threats he had been receiving, the Missoulian reported Friday.
Longtime warden Frank Bowen was transferred from his job with the Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation earlier this month.
The Missoulian obtained a copy of an Aug. 14 memo written by FWP Warden Capt. Lee Anderson that said Bowen was being reassigned to the DNRC for six months, in part because of threats to his safety.
In June, Bowen told an interim legislative committee that he had proof of multiple hunting offenses, but Lake County Attorney Mitch Young refused to prosecute them. The Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST, also was investigating Lake County officers.
“Given the current POST investigation into Lake County, the notice of intent to sue FWP by other law enforcement officers in Lake County, the unwillingness of County Attorney Mitch Young to prosecute any of your cases, combined with threats to your personal safety and jurisdictional questions regarding state game warden authority on the Flathead Indian Reservation, we feel this reassignment is in your, as well as the department’s best interest,” Anderson wrote.
FWP Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said neither he nor Anderson could comment because it was a personnel matter. A message on Bowens’ work phone said he was on vacation.
The newspaper reported it obtained a copy of the memo from a source not connected with the FWP, the DNRC or any law enforcement agency in Lake County.
In June, Bowen told the legislative committee: “One statement we took from down there is, ‘You can’t break the law if you are the law.’ That is the backdrop we are up against.”
Young told The Associated Press at the time that there was nothing to prosecute.
“Mr. Bowen’s investigations have never had any merit, and they continue to not have any merit,” Young said. “And the only person who doesn’t seem to understand that is Mr. Bowen. It’s a mystery to me how he still has his position as an investigator.”
Bowen has been a game warden for 28 years.
The Polson district warden’s position will not be filled during Bowen’s reassignment, according to Anderson’s memo.
Montana FWP will work with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s Fish and Game agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “to ensure the district receives adequate coverage until a permanent solution is made,” Anderson wrote.
Five current or former sheriff’s office employees have filed a lawsuit against the sheriff and three other employees alleging the five have been reprimanded, demoted and denied promotions for their efforts to expose what they say is law-breaking and corruption in the department.
That trial is scheduled to begin in March.
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