Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Wednesday launched an investigation into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attempt to bring criminal changes against a California tree trimmer.
In early May, Ernesto Pulido was hired by the U.S. Postal Service in Oakland, California, to cut a few tree limbs. Birds were sitting on the limbs and defecating on the mail trucks.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is looking into possible criminal charges brought against a California tree trimmer. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Just a few weeks later, Pulido is facing up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine for cutting those limbs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering criminal charges against Pulido for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. FWS says Pulido cut branches that were home to black-crowned night herons, a species protected by that law.
But on Wednesday, Pulido found an ally in Issa (R-Calif.), who wrote a letter to the FWS citing press reports that said no birds were killed, and that Pulido was paying for the treatment of injured birds. "All accounts indicate the activity which disturbed the bird's nesting area was unintentional," the letter said.
Issa argued that past court cases indicate there is no basis for charging Pulido, and said he is worried that FWS may be trying to make Pulido a scapegoat in order to dodge the question of whether to press charges against the U.S. Postal Service, which originally ordered the limbs to be cut.
"The Committee is concerned that Mr. Pulido is being subjected to an unfair and unnecessary prosecution because FWS is responding to public pressure to act but does not want to seek redress from a fellow federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service," he wrote.
Issa criticized the FWS's actions, in particular because of the many examples Issa's committee has seen of government deciding not to prosecute other government agencies. He cited activities such as taking illegal gifts, watching pornography on the job, and lying about timecards as examples in which one government agency did not prosecute another.
"When so many government workers are offered a pass, referring and prioritizing charges against a private citizen for incidental and relatively minor injuries to a non-endangered species — commissioned by a federal agency no less — appears nothing short of bureaucratic bullying," he wrote.
In order to properly oversee the incident, Issa's letter asked FWS for all documents related to the possible charges against Pulido, and asked that this information be provided by June 11. It also asks FWS staff to brief the committee no later than June 4.
Read Issa's letter here: