A judge on Thursday sentenced a former official of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to three years probation and a $10,000 fine for falsifying reports to conceal a side job he held at an organization that receives funding from the agency.
Stephen M. Barton, 67, of Boise, had waived federal indictment and pleaded guilty Oct. 24 in Boise to one count of making false statements, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
Barton received $377,000 in income over several years as treasurer for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a Boise-based nonprofit representing more than 20 fish and wildlife agencies in the western and central U.S. and Canada, according a Department of Justice investigative report.
He was working for the Fish and Wildlife Service as chief of administration and information management in the wildlife and sport fish restoration program. He earned about $155,000 a year until his employment was terminated within the past year, according to the report.
Barton worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game from January 1975 through July 2007 as its chief financial officer and assistant director, according to the Idaho State Controller’s Office. He joined the federal agency in September 2007.
He served as treasurer of WAFWA from 2004 through early 2014.
As a senior Fish and Wildlife Service employee, Barton was required to report any outside income in excess of $200, according to federal investigators.
In 2010, he signed a federal ethics form indicating that he worked about 10 hours a week for the nonprofit and received no income from it. Federal investigators found, however, that Barton received income from 2008 through 2014 totaling $377,363, with the largest amount being $109,242 in 2013. Barton did not disclose this income on federal reports he filed from 2012 to 2015.
During the time he held both positions, the Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the other nonprofit about $3 million in grants and cooperative agreements. Barton admitted to investigators that he signed federal grant applications on behalf of WAFWA using the name of another officer for the association.
The report said Barton lived in Boise while he was assigned to his federal position in Washington, D.C. His travel records show that over five years, he made more than 100 flights to or from Boise and received travel allowances for personal trips, costing the government $96,087.
He told investigators that his wife lived in Boise. He had asked his supervisor whether he could work from Boise full time; his supervisor did not approve, but instead approved Barton traveling home “from time to time.” Barton said the government paid for his flights home to Boise “most of the time.”
He also charged the government for travel to attend six Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conferences, including one in Hawaii in 2012.
Barton admitted using his Fish and Wildlife Service office phone, cellphone, email account and other resources to conduct other business while on the clock for Fish and Wildlife.
Barton told investigators that he conducted business for another agency while on the clock for the Fish and Wildlife Service “primarily out of convenience” and because the two jobs “merged together.”
U.S. District Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill imposed the sentence. According to court documents, because Barton had no prior criminal history, along with the nature of the offense and that Barton and his wife have custody of their granddaughter, the government said it “would not oppose a bottom-of-the-guideline sentence of no period of incarceration subject to a two-year term of probation.”