Issa criticizes feds for 'bullying' a tree trimmer

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is lashing out against the Obama administration for attempting to prosecute a California tree trimmer who accidentally disturbed a protected species of birds, even as he says fraud is going unpunished within the federal government.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) dropped the charges against Ernesto Pulido on Thursday after Issa came to his defense, calling it "bureaucratic bullying" by the agency and ordering a congressional inquiry.

"Bullies tend to back down when confronted," Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in the Orange County Register on Friday.

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This comes after Pulido was hired by the U.S. Postal Service to trim trees at a parking lot in California, where unbeknownst to him there was a nest of black-crowned night-herons, which are protected under federal law.

When Pulido realized this, he immediately stopped trimming the trees.

No birds were killed, but some sustained minor injuries and they had to find new homes, according to Issa.

Pulido offered a public apology and donated $2,500 to the shelter where the birds are being taken care of.

Despite his remorse, the FWS asked the Justice Department to prosecute Pulido, who could have faced six months in prison and $15,000 in fines.

The case was dropped Thursday after Issa sprang into action.

"Mistakes are mistakes," Issa wrote. "When citizens try to do what they can to atone for them, as Mr. Pulido did, it’s called 'doing the right thing.' Little good comes from making such situations into criminal cases, even more so when our courts are already jammed."

Issa also complained that the Obama administration attempted to prosecute Pulido even as it has declined to press charges against federal government employees who have abused the system. 

He pointed to two cases within the EPA. In one example, a top-level employee accepted an $8,000 discount on a Mercedes-Benz from a lobbyist, while in another case, a woman continued receiving paychecks from the agency for five years even though she was not working.

"It’s starkly backward to prioritize prosecution of Americans who make small environmental mistakes and show true remorse over actual corruption in our government," Issa wrote. 

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