So why did Bob Ziehmer resign from one of the most powerful conservation posts in the nation last year?

When he stepped down from his position as director of the Missouri Department of Conservation in July, many speculated there might be a hidden story here – something that didn’t surface in interviews.

He told me that he was moving on to a management job in the private sector, which later turned out to be a foundation connected to Bass Pro Shops.

But why leave the Department of Conservation? An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday may have provided some clues.

It detailed how Ziehmer is still being paid by the Department of Conservation – to the tune of $87,000 since he left. And he receives another $5,800 every two weeks presumably until his departure reaches the one-year mark.

That money comes from a separation and release agreement that  was worked out between Ziehmer and the Missouri Conservation Commission, which oversees the Department of Conservation, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The article said, “The agreement appears to address concerns by the commission that Ziehmer might take legal action if they tried to push him out of the top job after six years at the helm. It remains unclear why that may have occurred.

“To ensure an amicable parting, the parties wish to compromise, resolve and settle, finally and forever, any claims and causes of action that were or could have been asserted by the employee against MDC,” the agreement notes.

It went on to say, “Both sides said the pact should not be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing.”

To me, this amounts to one heck of a severance package, which is completely legal and common. But the Post-Dispatch’s finding that the agreement appeared to address concerns by the commission that Ziehmer might take legal action if pushed out of the top job…that concerns me.

What issues were the Commission worried might come up? Was this hush money? No one is talking.

All I know is, the Conservation Commission is paying Ziehmer an inordinate sum for what has been termed “his accrued leave” until his paid leave time runs out.

Yes, the Department of Conservation has plenty of money, thanks to the funding it receives from the Conservation Sales Tax. But is this the way we want to see our money spent?

I think not.