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Ex-habitat biologist acknowledges ethics violations

A former habitat biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been fined for violating the state’s public employee ethics law.

Attorney General Rob McKenna says the Executive Ethics Board has settled its case against William Weiler, fining him $15,000.

McKenna says Weiler was the head of a nonprofit environmental science organization. He says Weiler, who no longer works for the state, acknowledged that he used his state job to promote environmental mitigation projects for his group.

The investigation was sparked by complaints in February by Klickitat County officials, who relied on Weiler to help wind farm developers find ways to compensate for the unavoidable environmental toll of building roads, pouring cement and erecting towers.

Among other issues, the county complained when Weiler suggested letting one wind development company near Goldendale pay for a wetlands restoration project 35 or so miles to the west. In the end, the company contributed to a project near Maryhill Museum, only about five miles from the site.

Typically, county planners preferred that mitigation efforts take place close to the development.

Weiler also convinced wind companies to give a total of $120,000 for raptor research to the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, an educational and restoration group that he founded and help run in Hood River, Ore. The Wildlife Department conducted the research, but the institute kept 10 percent, or $12,000, for managing the funds and paying invoices for equipment ordered by wildlife employees.