By Michael Martinez and Keith Allen
(CNN) — An officer with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources — who was previously discharged by a police department that recommended against his being hired by the state agency — has been charged with five counts of sexual assault against a girl while he was in uniform, authorities said.
Officer Ethan Ferguson, 39, of Hilo has been charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, the Hawaii Police Department said.
“My first thought was somebody really blew it in DLNR,” Hawauud state Sen. Will Espero told CNN affiliate KHON. “Something motivated someone to take the recommendation of a county law enforcement agency on one of its former employees and basically disregard that suggestion.”
Ferguson and his attorney couldn’t be immediately by CNN for comment this week. Ferguson has been a conservation and resources enforcement officer since June 27, 2013.
Ferguson had earlier worked for the Honolulu Police Department, which recommended against his hiring at the state agency, said Honolulu police spokeswoman Sarah Yoro.
Yoro didn’t detail the reasons for the negative recommendation.
“The department also listed ‘discharge’ as the reason for termination and stated that it would not recommend his hiring,” Yoro said. “There is no record of (Hawaii Department of Human Resources Development) contacting the HPD for additional information.”
A deputy director with the human resources department didn’t have an immediate comment and told CNN that state officials were preparing a statement that could be released as early as Friday.
Meanwhile, Ferguson has been served with a letter of removal of police authority and is now on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the court case, the DLNR said.
A female minor alleged that a DLNR officer approached her at a state beach in Hilo on January 1 and then sexually assault her, authorities said.
Ferguson was arrested six days later, authorities said. Ferguson was released after posting $13,000 bail, KHON reported.
The state police agency is continuing its investigation, and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is conducting its own inquiry.
Ferguson and 108 other Hawaii officers like him have powers to enforce laws and rules in state parks, lands, historic sites, forest reserves, aquatic life areas, conservation districts and coastal zones, the DLNR said.
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