Pennsylvania Game Commission Director Resigns Amid Controversy Over Business Relationships

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Written By Blue & Gold NLR Team





Bryan Burhans, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), has resigned from his position following revelations about his involvement in personal consulting and business relationships with several commission employees.

The decision for Burhans to step down came after the Board of Game Commissioners raised concerns about his outside activities, which were deemed unrelated to his performance as the PGC’s leader.

While there were no accusations of ethical violations, the board questioned the appropriateness of Burhans’ business relationships with commission employees.

In his place, Stephen Smith, a Pennsylvania native who has been serving as the commission’s deputy executive director since February, has been appointed as the new leader. Smith has been with the PGC since 2008 and has pledged to initiate an independent review of the commission’s supplemental employment policies.

Burhans was operating as a wellness coach through Optavia, a health and wellness community, which pairs a diet program with coaching services. Although there were concerns raised about potential conflicts of interest between Burhans’ personal business and his responsibilities as the PGC’s leader, he maintained that he did not conduct consulting work during official PGC time.

Despite Burhans’ resignation, criticisms of the PGC extend beyond his personal activities. Legislators have also been critical of the commission’s lobbying efforts, particularly the hiring of a $10,000 per-month lobbyist, making the PGC the only state agency to do so since 2007.

While Burhans’ departure marks a significant change in leadership, some lawmakers anticipate further discussions and reforms within the PGC. Sen. Cris Dush highlighted ongoing concerns about the management of the commission, while Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill emphasized the need for reforms to uphold hunting traditions across the state.

As the PGC moves forward under new leadership, the fate of employees involved in business relationships with Burhans remains uncertain, pending the outcome of the third-party review of supplemental employment policies.

Burhans expressed gratitude for his time with the PGC, acknowledging the need to recognize when it’s time to step down. His departure signals a new chapter for the Pennsylvania Game Commission as it navigates through ongoing challenges and reforms.

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