One of the most bizarre asbestos cases in recent history seems destined to drag on a little longer. Last October, we brought you the story of the renovations of a public building in upstate New York, which were being carried out by laborers from the local jail under the supervision of a county employee.
Like so many old buildings, the one that housed the Cayuga County Board of Elections had an asbestos problem. Instead of hiring trained and licensed asbestos abatement workers, the supervisor on the job simply had his inmate workers scrape the material off the boilers. The contaminated boiler parts, which by law should have been taken to an authorized toxic waste disposal facility, were simply dumped at a local landfill.
The supervisor, whose name is John Chick, claimed that he was acting on the orders his immediate supervisor, Ernie DeCaro. Nonetheless, there was evidence that Chick himself had a more active role in the violation than he indicated. He did not help his own case when, two days after pleading guilty to violations of the Federal Clean Air Act, Chick threatened to kill Anthony Garropy, the informant in the case. Investigators for the federal government have refused to bring charges against anyone else, including DeCaro, who was initially advised to retain counsel. Nonetheless, the sentence hearings have continued for over a year. In the meantime, Chick was placed on “paid leave,” and continued to draw paychecks from Cayuga County until a sentencing date was set by U.S. District Court judge Fred Scullin last month.
Chick, who is 61 years old, now faces a five-year prison term and a quarter-million dollar fine. Sentencing had been scheduled to take place on 20 February, but Judge Scullin took ill unexpectedly. Chick’s sentencing has now been rescheduled to take place in Syracuse, New York, at 11 AM on 6 March.