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Duluth area DNR officer was fired for computer use, refusing drug test

Brian Buria

Former Minnesota conservation Officer Brian Buria was fired from the Department of Natural Resources earlier this year for using a state computer for personal use, lying about taking a defensive driving course, using narcotics, and refusing to take a drug and alcohol test.

An internal DNR document requested by the News Tribune and made available Thursday indicate Buria was fired for violating DNR employee guidelines even before he pleaded guilty to felony drug charges.

The dismissal letter also shows that Buria had been disciplined in 2003 for alcohol abuse but then reinstated under a stipulation that he not engage in any alcohol or drug misconduct and that he be available for drug and alcohol testing both on and off duty.

The 2003 stipulation agreement noted Buria would be subject to "immediate discharge'' if he ever failed a test.

Buria had been on paid leave since last August pending the internal agency investigation. In his dismissal letter dated Feb. 25, Capt Ken Soring told Buria the investigation found that he had used his state computer for inappropriate personal use. The letter also notes that Buria later destroyed the computer by spraying gun oil into it, apparently in an effort to destroy any record of his personal use.

The letter also noted that Buria arranged to have another officer take a defensive driving course for him and that Buria later submitted a certificate claiming he had competed the course.

The DNR investigation also found Buria had used narcotics that could impair his job performance and did not inform his supervisor. Buria refused to take a drug and alcohol test on Oct. 27, 2008.

Buria, 47, was sentenced Monday in Itasca County District Court on two counts of felony possession of controlled drugs. He received five years' probation and a stayed sentence on the two counts. He will serve 45 days of electronic monitoring, pay fines of $1,135, submit to chemical dependency evaluation, abstain from alcohol and drugs, be subject to spot checks by law enforcement officers, provide a DNA sample and complete a cognitive skills testing course.

Buria had pleaded guilty to the charges on July 27 in Itasca County District Court, according to the Itasca County Attorney's Office.

On Feb. 19 officers used a search warrant to enter Buria's home and found steroids, marijuana and oxycodone. Buria initially was charged with five counts of illegally possessing drugs, including receiving valium through the mail from Hong Kong without a prescription. Three of the counts were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.

Buria had been with the DNR since 1986.

Reached by phone at his home in Bigfork Thursday, Buria said he harbors no animosity toward the DNR or Itasca County law enforcement officials.

"I think people should know that it's illegal to buy these drugs from other countries, even if they are not prescription drugs in those countries. I don't think most people know that,'' Buria said. "And they also had me on a charge of moving prescription drugs into another bottle. ... So basically it's a felony to use a day planner for your prescription drugs.''

Buria said he was under undue pressure to write tickets to violators when in most cases he said warnings and education would better serve the situation.

Buria conceded to "making a mistake. And I've paid for it. Now I'm on full retirement and I'm moving on. I'm happy,'' Buria said, noting he plans on staying in Bigfork. "People have been great to me here. Nobody's said I got what I deserved.''