DNR consultant working for industry at odds with state is forced to resign

Metro

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July 02, 2005|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A former Department of Natural Resources official who was working under contract with the agency was forced to resign yesterday amid revelations that he was also consulting for an industry group that is often at odds with the state.

W. Pete Jensen, who retired as DNR's deputy associate secretary in April, was rehired days later under a $25,000-a-year consulting contract to work on a study to determine whether to introduce non-native oysters into the Chesapeake Bay.

But questions were raised when Jensen turned up Wednesday at a meeting of the Menhaden Technical Committee in Manchester, N.H. Officials were talking with Omega Protein, a company that takes large quantities of the oily baitfish out of the bay.

Maryland has lobbied to limit the menhaden harvest, in part to preserve the region's striped bass population. Omega has long opposed a limit.

Several meeting attendees noticed that Jensen huddled with Omega executives at the meeting. DNR officials said they did not know Jensen was attending and that he was not representing the state. They determined Jensen was there because he had a contract with Wallace and Associates, a firm with ties to Omega.

Jensen's resignation was effective immediately. He could not be reached for comment.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist Bill Goldsborough praised the state for taking quick action. "The state has taken a very strong position in support of menhaden conservation that Omega opposes, so there's a clear conflict between working for both the state of Maryland and Omega at the same time," he said.

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