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Consultant who lied about endangered frogs sentenced

Daily Planet wire report
Monday February 26, 2001

An Emeryville environmental consultant has been sentenced to community service and fined in federal court for moving and harming threatened California red-legged frogs at a Concord development site. 

John Zentner, 46, was hired as a consultant for Holly Creek Estates, a 6-acre housing development to ensure compliance with federal and state wetland and conservation laws. 

Instead of informing authorities about the presence of the endangered red-legged frogs, Zentner and his employees attempted to relocate at least 64 red-legged frogs and 500 tadpoles from a watercourse and a pond area. They moved the amphibians to a portion of the pond that was to be preserved. The remaining part of the pond became part of the housing development project. 

Many of the frogs died because the preserved pond was small and shallow and within 15 feet of new homes, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs. 

U.S. Magistrate Wayne Brazil sentenced Zentner yesterday to 200 hours of community service, a $10,000 fine and three years of probation. Zentner's company, Zentner & Zentner, was fined $65,000. 

According to Zentner's defense attorney, William Goodman, Zentner plans to work his 200 hours of community service at a nonprofit environmental group in Napa. Goodman argued at the sentencing hearing that the case has damaged Zentner's reputation and business. 

Jeff Miller, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity in Berkeley, said his group believes the conviction calls into question Zentner's work on other East Bay developments, including the Greenbriar Homes development along Tassajara Creek in Dublin and the Pine Vista Estates subdivision in Alamo. 

Zentner's attorney denied any wrongdoing with those projects. He said, ``There are no questions raised about other cases.'' 

In 1996, the California red-legged frog was declared a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  

The red-legged frog is said to have inspired Mark Twain's story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”