By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau
Allegations of nepotism in the attorney general’s office were not the only perceived ethical lapses catching the attention of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.
The chairman of the House state government committee has also asked the state Ethics Commission to determine whether a Pennsylvania Game Commission employee has a conflict of interest because of a second job.
William Capouillez is paid $76,206 as director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, the department that deals closely with natural gas companies seeking to tap gas reserves under public lands.
At night, Capouillez works as an oil and gas mineral lease consultant for individuals seeking to lease their lands for the development of natural gas resources. He again works with the same companies he does during the daylight hours, except now Capouillez receives a cut of the revenues and royalties generated by leaseholders, Metcalfe said.
The concerns about Capouillez’s moonlighting were first raised in a 2008 story in The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat. The Philadelphia Inquirer explored the questions surrounding Capouillez’s outside employment earlier this summer.
The Tribune-Democrat reported that after working hours, and described only as a geologist and not as a state employee, Capouillez conducts seminars for landowners who have been approached by natural gas companies wanting a lease. If they sign with him as their agent, Capouillez says he will get them higher lease income and better terms. In return, he and his private company, Geological Assessment and Leasing of McVeytown, would get 25 cents of every dollar Capouillez negotiated for the landowner above the rate first offered by the gas company, plus 50 percent of royalties above the set rate.
Capouillez told the Tribune-Democrat that he does not routinely reveal that he is a state employee because he fears that would create a conflict of interest.
Records provided by the Game Commission show that Capouillez has been proceeding with the blessing of his superiors, thanks to a review completed in 1996. That review describes Capouillez’s outside employment as a consultant to private property owners.
That review indicates that Capouillez “must be able to discern and consistently check on potential conflicts of interest prior to initiating employment.”
The review also states that Capouillez is barred from using data or information he gleans from his state job to benefit his second job.
A spokesman for the Game Commission did not respond to a request for information detailing if the Game Commission had ever determined that a particular job proposed by Capouillez was not permissible.
“Commission executive director Carl Roe won’t comment because it’s a personnel issue,” spokesman Travis Lau said.
In 2008, another Game Commission spokesman tried to dismiss the concerns by describing them as “a dead issue.”
Metcalfe is not so sure.
“I think it’s clearly a conflict. It’s parallel to insider trading,” Metcalfe said. “It puts the companies he is working with in a position that they may feel arm-twisted.”
Finnerty works in the Harrisburg Bureau for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cnhipa.