By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - State Senator Frank Niceley is calling for an overhaul of the TWRA after what he calls an abuse of power. The senator says some of the recent accusations in the news are only the tip of the iceberg.
You may have seen the video of the Gallatin man and his pet raccoon Rebecca showering together and you may have heard of Rebecca's subsequent seizure after the TWRA caught wind of the situation.
Perhaps you also saw the 6 News story earlier this month about Buddy the deer, a family pet of sorts of Verlin and Lorene McCarty. Buddy came and went from the Powell family's home, but was later taken away and killed by TWRA officials.
These are only two examples of what Senator Niceley says is an agency out of control.
"It's bad press after bad press," said Niceley. "They are out of control. They abuse people. They use no discernment."
Niceley says he receives several complaints a month from constituents being harassed by the agency and fined for minor offenses.
"They've drawn their agency too big, and now the hunters license and the money from them won't sustain them. They're trying to evidently balance their budget with fines for fishermen and sportsmen."
Niceley is now calling for a complete overhaul of the agency.
"The TWRA answers to no one. They have their own board and they have control of the board so it's an agency controlling their own agency."
He wants to remove that free-standing power and make the agency answer to the legislature like other state departments.
"If that's good enough for our children's education it's good enough for the possum cops."
Niceley also wants the agency's police powers revoked so they can begin policing the wildlife instead of his constituents.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter issued a statement saying he's aware of Senator Niceley's criticisms.
"I stand behind the actions of this Agency and welcome the opportunity to furnish Senator Niceley details regarding any incident for which he has questions," added Carter. "I look forward to having a discussion with Senator Nicely to address whatever concerns he may have."
6 News also heard from TWRA Information and Education Division Chief Don King. He denies Sen. Niceley's claims regarding the abuse of fines, saying the fines are a quarter of one percent of its budget.
King also says the legislature already has a say in how TWRA is run.