By Todd Ceisner
Travis Loyd said he was forced to resign from his job as deputy director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week after a report by FOX 32 News in Chicago alleged that Loyd improperly used sick time while competing in FLW Tour events in 2013.
When reached by BassFan on Wednesday afternoon, Loyd denied any wrongdoing and called his ouster a "political hit." He said nobody from FOX 32 attempted to contact him before its initial report aired. If they had, he said he would've provided evidence that he had prior written approval from his employer and physician to be off from work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
"It was a perception in the Governor's office that led to this," Loyd said.
According to the FOX 32 report, the station obtained Loyd's time sheets through a Freedom of Information Act request. The time sheets showed that Loyd worked only 7 1/2 hours between May 1 and mid-August 2013. During that time, he exhausted 12 1/2 vacation days before claiming he was on sick leave for 44 straight days, not counting weekends.
Loyd provided documents to BassFan that show he was approved for FMLA protection for the period of May 9, 2013 to May 8, 2014 after a doctor check-up in the spring of 2013 revealed he had a chronic medical condition.
By that time, he had already competed in two Tour events for which he used accrued vacation and comp time.
Loyd's physician recommended he take leave from work in an effort to reduce his stress level and effect a lifestyle change. In emails provided to BassFan by Loyd, Dr. Tricia K. Warner of Mount Vernon, Ill., confirmed the prescribed course of action. Warner submitted FMLA paperwork for Loyd and his leave was approved by the DNR.
Regarding a May 23 follow-up, Warner wrote that Loyd's condition had not improved significantly, but other remedies like exercise were recommended. While it may seem bizarre, Warner supported Loyd's continued participation in fishing tournaments as a means to reduce stress and encourage relaxation.
"We discussed hobbies and activities that might alleviate stress," Warner wrote in an email to Loyd. "You mentioned fishing and being involved in fishing tournaments as very enjoyable and relaxing for you. I encourage your participation in these activities."
Loyd said Illinois state officials took issue with the perception that arose from the FOX 32 report that he was "playing the system" in order to support his fishing hobby.
"Had my doctor restricted me and said no physical activity, I wouldn't have fished," Loyd told BassFan. "I didn't coerce my doctor into doing this. She's been my family doctor since 2009."
Loyd's resignation was the subject of a subsequent report on NBC 5 in Chicago on Wednesday night, during which the same documents he provided to BassFan were cited.
In Illinois, state employees are required to disclose any income derived from outside sources at the beginning of each year. Loyd also provided BassFan with a copy of his 2013 Economic Interest Statement that was filed with the Illinois Secretary of State.
He listed fishing tournaments with FLW Outdoors under the Section 2, which includes "any professional organization Ö from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during previous calendar year."
Loyd said state officials were well aware of his involvement in fishing tournaments.
"It's no secret in Illinois that I love to fish and the outdoors have always been a passion of mine," said Loyd, who owns the Illini Team Trail tournament circuit and has fished Tour events since 2012. "For anybody to say they didn't know I fished, it's crazy."
According to the emails from Warner, Loyd had follow-ups in July and August and it was during an Aug. 12 check up that it was determined his health had improved significantly. Warner signed off on Loyd returning to DNR work without restrictions on Aug. 20.
During the May to August timeframe, Loyd competed in five FLW tournaments Ė three Tour events and two Central Rayovac Series.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Loyd was still listed as Deputy Director on the Illinois DNR website, but he was forced to resign last Thursday, the first day of competition at the Lake Okeechobee FLW Tour, in which he competed (using accrued vacation time) and finished 169th.
He had received numerous calls while on the water, but waited until he returned to the dock to answer them. When he returned a message left by Illinois DNR director Marc Miller, Loyd was asked to tender his resignation immediately. He said Miller did not state a reason for the request.
"In Illinois, there are double-exempt employees, meaning they are at-will employees," Loyd said. "They're chosen by the governor's office and the director of the agency you work for. There's no union protection, meaning you can be asked to resign at any time for any reason. That's what makes these jobs so politically charged."
Loyd, who took the DNR deputy director job in 2010, was third in command at the agency and earned in excess of $90,000 per year. He also spearheaded several outreach programs in an effort to get more people involved in hunting and fishing.
The resident of Kinmundy, Ill., has competed in 12 Tour events since 2012 and has earned $14,386. He also fished all four tournaments in the Central Division of the Rayovac Series last year.
He plans to continue work in the private sector, where he owns and operates several businesses. He said he plans to continue fishing the Tour this season as well. He said his fishing sponsors have stood by throughout this ordeal.
"They understand the nature of what's happened and they're still supporting me," he said. "I'm praying to God for my reputation that it comes out that I didn't break the law. I did everything I was asked. They just didn't like that my doctor prescribed I could go fishing.
"My intention is to clear my name. I did nothing illegal."
To watch the FOX 32 report, click here.
To view the NBC 5 report, click here.