Wildlife Sanctuary Operator Fined

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler recently announced that Dianne Pearce, 53, of Silver Spring, was convicted in Worcester County Circuit Court of violating the State’s charitable organization law. Judge Thomas Groton, III sentenced Pearce to 14 days in jail, a one year suspended sentence and five years supervised probation. She was also ordered to pay $116,000 in restitution to the State’s Nontidal Wetland Compensation Fund.

In 1997, Pearce operated the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary, a charitable organization. At the time, Perdue Farms entered into an agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to settle a water pollution enforcement action by participating in a wetland restoration project. Perdue agreed to deed a 90-acre parcel of wetland near the town of Showell to an environmental trust and to subsidize the project with $150,000. MDE selected Pearce’s Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary to carry out the restoration project and the funds were directed to her for this purpose. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit revealed that after Pearce obtained plans for the construction of the wetland, work was never done on the restoration project. In addition, it was discovered that Pearce had spent or transferred the entire $150,000 out of the Sanctuary’s land trust bank account.

The Attorney General’s Office asked that several special conditions of probation also be imposed on Pearce, including requiring her to deed the property to a reputable entity able to complete the wetland restoration project, as well as prohibiting Pearce from serving on the governing board of any charitable organization during the term of her probation.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program has agreed to step in and complete the project. In making today’s announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Assistant Attorney General Bernard Penner for his work on the case.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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