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A Southwest Washington employee of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been fired after the agency alleged that he stole more than $80,000 in fuel.

The Cowlitz County Prosecutor is reviewing the case for charging here.

Bob Woodard, 47, had worked for the department for approximately 25 years and was an IT specialist in the Southwest Washington region. Public affairs director Bruce Botka said an internal investigation found Woodard had used multiple fuel cards given to different employees to make fraudulent purchases starting in 2010. Woodard was fired in early December.

Woodard allegedly fueled vehicles and gas cans using PINs that belonged to other employees, Botka said. Those card numbers are meant for the specific employees and vehicles they are assigned to.

Woodard was an IT specialist for the agency’s six-county Region 5 area,which includes Cowlitz County. The position “gave him a familiarity with the systems that were used for accounting ... that enabled him to game the system to his own benefit,” Botka said.

He said the investigation into Woodard’s alleged thefts “was like peeling an onion.”

The investigation began when one employee could not find a gas card for a boat, Botka said. The department discovered that the card had been used multiple times in a different part of the state.

The search for that card eventually led investigators to Woodard. Botka confirmed that investigators obtained gas station footage showing the card being used to fuel Woodard’s personal vehicle.

Once investigators connected Woodard to that card, they also found fraudulent purchases on other cards, Botka said. He was then quickly interviewed and dismissed, Botka said. The investigation has been forwarded to the Cowlitz County Prosecutor’s office, which is reviewing it for a charging decision, Cowlitz Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen said Thursday

Botka said the the department had already planned to change the fuel payment system prior to starting its investigation into Woodard.

“We have 170 fishery program employees in the Southwest region, so there are a lot of people who could potentially use the cards,” Botka said.

The department plans to reduce the amount of credit cards and are developing a system that analyzes purchases that are “out of the ordinary,” Botka said. Employees will also be required to have all of their gas purchases approved by a supervisor.

“This is completely unacceptable,” Botka said. “... Something like this deserves immediate attention, and we are gonna make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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