Asbestos Violator Fired; Penalty Hearing Pending

One of the most bizarre and twisted asbestos-related cases in New York history is finally winding up in a Cayuga County court.

Back in September 2007, we posted the story of two Cayuga County employees who placed inmate workers’ health at risk when they attempted to avoid asbestos removal costs by having these untrained, unprotected workers do the job in February of 2006. The job in this case was repair work inside the Cayuga County Board of Elections Building. The violations were exposed by a worker named Anthony Garropy, and the story was reported in the local press that summer.

John Chick, the immediate supervisor of the inmates, was indicted in December and ultimately entered a guilty plea the following month for violating the federal Clean Air Act, although he was allegedly acting under orders from his own supervisors. Two days later, he was accused of threatening Garropy’s life and was subsequently arrested.

Over the past several months, there have been ongoing hearings over what penalties should be applied in this case. As the court heard testimony from numerous witnesses, attorneys for Chick argued that their client should be given a light sentence, since he was allegedly following the directive of his own supervisor.

Federal prosecutors on the other hand claim that Chick has been less than forthcoming about his own role in the scandal, and are not planning to bring charges against anyone else.

Despite the legal proceedings against him and the fact that he has not done any actual work since his indictment over a year, Chick continued to draw a paycheck from Cayuga County while on “paid suspension”–until now.

Last week, John Chick received a termination notice with his last paycheck.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Scullin has set 20 February as the date for Chick’s sentencing hearing.

Chick’s termination after one year does not bode well for his future or the sentence that Judge Scullin may hand down. According to federal sentencing guidelines, Chick could serve up to five years and be liable for fines of as much as $250,000.

Meanwhile, Cayuga County faces several lawsuits from those who were exposed during the six-month period that the BOE Building continued to be open.