A bizarre and twisted case that we have been following since last September–in which a Cayuga County (New York) employee exposed an inmate offender work crew to deadly asbestos fibers–has at long last been resolved.
John Chick, a 61-year-old carpenter and county employee, was in charge of replacing a boiler in the Cayuga County Board of Elections Buildings. He was charged with–and subsequently found guilty of–illegal removal of asbestos. The inmate crew on the job was instructed to simply scrape the substance off the pipes and dump it into bags.
These unmarked bags were then hauled to the local landfill, in violation of EPA regulations. As a result of the exposure, which resulted from the illegal removal of the asbestos over two years ago, about 30 different people–including members of the work crew and the general public–have come forward to file claims against the County. The bizarre twists in the case came when John Chick insisted that he was simply “following orders” given him by his own supervisor. Later, he threatened to kill the whistleblower on the case. Although he was placed on “administrative leave” and suspended from his job,
Chick continued to draw a paycheck up until about two months ago when he was finally found guilty on all charges. He was then officially terminated from his employment. Chick was to have been sentenced in February, but the judge on the case, Fred Scullin Jr., took ill unexpectedly, delaying the sentencing. The sentence was finally handed down on 6 March. John Chick will serve a 15-month prison sentence, followed by three years of probation, and be required to pay installments on a fine that will eventually total $180,000. Despite Chick’s protestations that he was “only following orders,” Judge Scullin insisted that Chick take some responsibility for his own actions in the situation.