State hatchery contract lost after report of sexual culture

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has lost a multimillion-dollar contract to operate two fish hatcheries following a report of a sexual culture among top-ranking employees at one of them.

The News Tribune reports officials with the Douglas County Public Utility District, which owns the hatcheries, decided Monday to end its one-year contract with the state to operate the Wells and Methow hatcheries in north central Washington.

Utility district spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert says the contract renewed in June was set to pay $1.36 million to the state for the Wells Hatchery and another $715,000 for the Methow Hatchery.

The four highest-ranking employees at Wells were fired by the state earlier this month after an investigation into sexual-harassment claims found a workplace atmosphere riddled with sexual conversations and hazing.

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka said the agency wants to talk to utility district officials about their decision.