Travis Loyd, a top Illinois Department of Natural Resources official, was fired last week for fishing in a pro tour while on paid sick leave. He says his doctor told him to do it, and that his superiors cleared his activities.
Imagine if your doctor instructs you to go fishing during your paid sick leave to heal from your medical condition. Too good to be true, right?
It was too good to be true for Travis Loyd, a professional angler, and the now former number three Illinois DNR official.
Travis Loyd: Pro AnglerTravis Loyd, the man at the center of the scandal, is an FLW Pro Angler. His career earnings total $31,504. Loyd also ran for an Illinois state representative position in 2008. Image: flwoutdoors.com
NBC 5 reported that Loyd’s doctor instructed him to participate in pro fishing tours to help him recover from his medical condition. The doctor knew Loyd was a professional bass fishermen, and recommended that during his sick leave he should participate in the tour to help him find his happy place and get better.
“The doctor told me I was going to lose some organs if I didn’t do something,” Travis Loyd said. “I was under doctor’s orders to go fishing.”
RELATED: Check out this infographic that shows how fishing is good for you.
So, Loyd made his preparations to put up his “Gone Fishing” sign for a few months. He said he cleared his planned tournament tour activities with his bosses before he left on leave last year.
Loyd took his sick leave, did some tournament fishing, made some scratch, and returned to work. Everything seemed fine, until last week when NBC 5, the Better Government Association, and other news stations got word of the story and made it into a fishing scandal.
They were curious as to why Loyd was allowed to compete in pro tournaments while he was on paid sick leave. A fair question, considering paid sick leave for government employees is funded with taxpayer money. NBC 5 reported that between May and August of last year, Loyd took more than three months of paid sick leave. The fishing scandal stirred the pot at the DNR, and after the story went public, Loyd was asked to resign.
Travis Loyd insists that he cleared the fishing tournaments with his bosses. He also listed his tournament winnings as economic income with the state of Illinois (since he began competing in 1998, Loyd has earned $31,000 fishing FLW tours).
Regardless, Loyd violated an Illinois DNR sick leave policy which states that, “An employee shall not be granted FMLA designated leave of absence for the purpose of seeking or taking employment elsewhere.”
“Sick leave has rules in Illinois. You have to comply with those rules.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who oversees the state DNR, said that Loyd’s fishing activities were a violation of the DNR’s policy.
“Sick leave has rules in Illinois. You have to comply with those rules. If you don’t, there are consequences,” Quinn told News 5.