UPDATED 12:00 P.M. MARCH 2, 2018
The gas cards were for fueling up WDFW boats and equipment, but an agency IT worker used them to fill up his diesel pickup, his wife’s Honda, his old fishing boat, as well as his gas cans.
That’s according to fish and wildlife officers’ reports that say that all totaled, Robert “Bob” D. Woodard, 47, allegedly rang up in excess of $79,972.72 worth of gas by using his and fellow staffers’ — past and present — cards and pin numbers.
“He just used it over and over and over and over and over — for eight years,” reported KING 5’s Alison Morrow in a story breaking the news last night.
Eighty thousand bucks would have bought 24,446 gallons worth, based on federal figures that show the average price of all grades of fuel from 2010 through 2017 Washington was $3.27.
“It’s terribly shocking and saddening that someone would do this and take money away from our mission,” WDFW assistant business operations manager David Giglio told Morrow.
She reported Woodard had been fired. He’d worked as an assistant data manager out of the agency’s Vancouver and Ridgefield offices and had been with WDFW a reported two and a half decades.
An attempt to reach Woodard through a land line listed for a relative at his address in Longview was unsuccessful due to a full voice mail.
But according to officers’ reports, the alleged theft was only discovered late last October when the gas card for a seldom-used Duckworth outboard jet sled couldn’t be located.
A staffer got in touch with WDFW’s Fiscal Services division, which ran a report on the card and found “numerous large purchases for fuel in the Longview” area on it between March 25 and October 25, 2017.
Two pins were associated with that card, one a former WDFW employee who’d taken a new job last spring in Oregon and was “highly unlikely” to have been responsible, and the other was Woodard’s.
Fish and Wildlife officer Tyler Bahrenburg was tasked with obtaining surveillance footage from two Longview stations, an unmanned Flying K and a Shell, the latter of which was near Woodard’s home, that matched when the cards had been used.
According to officers’ reports, video and still images that Bahrenburg collected showed a tall, stocky blonde man pumping fuel into a newer Crosstour, a 1994 Chevrolet with a canopy, as well as gas cans in the back of the truck.
In mid-November, Woodard was interviewed at WDFW’s Ridgefield office by Capt. Jeff Wickersham and Deputy Chief Mike Cenci from headquarters. Woodard was shown video of a man pumping fuel and asked if he knew who it was, but he claimed he didn’t.
Presented with another video showing him running a gas card, Woodard initially allegedly admitted to having used five for personal use for about a year and a half, according to officer reports.
But after being shown suspicious records going back to 2010 for a card associated with a piece of diesel equipment, including charges that occurred in Hermiston and Biggs Junction, Oregon, Woodard “eventually stated that he had been using the various gas cards since around that time,” according to officer reports.
Along with the Duckworth, which was used for stream surveys in the Hanford Reach in fall, other boats associated with the cards included a back-up craft that hadn’t been used for several years after being replaced and another lightly used boat used to tend netpens in the Grays River. Fuel purchases for the latter showed amounts well above the 10 to 15 gallons it otherwise would use because of its size.
And while reviewing logs for still another boat, officers found suspicious charges that seemed to correspond to a several-year period when Woodard had his own fishing boat moored at Cathlamet to fish for spring and summer Chinook. Those ended in 2014.
According to officers, when Woodard was issued gas cards for two pieces of equipment and a boat, he signed a statement saying that he could be held liable for any charges on that card, and that it’s “standard knowledge” among state employees that it’s illegal to buy fuel for personal use with one.
WDFW spokesman Bruce Botka told The Daily News of Longview that plans had been in the works to change how state staffers used gas cards before this case began. Supervisors will need to sign off on them, and a system to catch “out of the ordinary” purchases will be implemented. Botka vowed WDFW was going to “make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The $80,000 Woodard allegedly rang up over eight years didn’t come out of any single part of the agency’s budget, according to Botka, who told Northwest Sportsman that essentially a mix of license revenues, federal, state and local monies and other funding sources cover WDFW’s fuel tab.
While making a recorded statement with Wickersham and Cenci, Woodard allegedly told them it had all begun while he was experiencing a “personal hardship due to family issues,” and that it had become “easier over time,” officers reported.
According to their report, Woodard apologized and said he didn’t want to lose his job.
When he went to his cubicle to collect his items before being escorted out of the building, he asked the new regional manager, John Long, to “put in a good word for him.”
Now, Woodard could soon face theft charges in Cowlitz County. Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen told The Daily News that the case is being reviewed for a decision on what to charge Woodard with.