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Minn. Gov. Faulted for Appointment

January 19, 1999

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Gov. Jesse Ventura’s choice for head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources is a fellow former Navy SEAL who has twice been ticketed for violating the department’s fish and game rules. Two DNR officials have resigned in protest.

Assistant Commissioner Gail Lewellan said Monday that she was stepping down because respect for game and fish laws must apply to all employees. Deputy Commissioner Ron Nargang, who planned to retire soon anyway, left Friday in protest after meeting with the new commissioner, Alan Horner.

``I was hoping to stay with the DNR, assuming my philosophy of managing the DNR was compatible with the new commissioner,″ Lewellan said. ``Apparently, it isn’t.″

Lewellan also said Horner, a 52-year-old businessman, has given different versions of what happened when he received two tickets and a warning for violating DNR laws since 1988.

News of Horner’s violations surfaced after Ventura named him last week.

Although DNR employees can be disciplined or fired for violating hunting and fishing rules, Horner and Ventura, the former professional wrestler whose election as a third-party candidate stunned the nation in November, have called the violations minor.

DNR employees told WCCO-TV that during a department meeting after the violations became public, Horner minimized the violations and derided DNR game wardens as ``crappie cops.″

``Without an apology or at least some clarification, major clarification of his stand, yes, he should resign,″ said Tony Cornish, who heads the state’s Conservation Officers Union.

In a statement Monday, Ventura’s office said, ``The governor supports this commissioner. However, we are monitoring the situation and in the end we will do what is best for the state of Minnesota and the DNR.″

Horner told The Associated Press that rumors he would decline the job were ``absolutely not true.″ The appointment must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Horner owns Aaron Carlson Corp., which manufactures architectural woodwork for commercial buildings. Like Ventura, he is a former Navy SEAL. The two did not know each other until after the election, when Horner sent in a resume to Ventura.

Though he has no experience in state government, Horner has an undergraduate degree in zoology and a master’s in business. He has served as trustee for Minnesota Outward Bound _ a program that takes groups into the wilderness to become more confident.

The post of DNR commissioner is one of the toughest and most visible in Minnesota, where residents care passionately about fishing, hunting and outdoor sports. The commissioner has to balance those interests with those of environmentalists in managing such issues as timber use, wildlife populations and water quality.

Horner was cited in 1988 for fishing without a license and in 1990 for setting up a portable fish house on a frozen lake without a license. In the first instance, he said he was there only to help his young son fish and was not fishing himself; in the 1990 case, he said his son and some friends set up the house and were going to get a license when the ticket was issued.

Last year, Horner was accused of grouse hunting without a license, but when he showed officials he had just left the license behind in his hotel room, he got off with a warning.

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