Upstate New York School Official Lies About Asbestos Removal

There have been so many stories here about “asbestos schools” that they are hardly newsworthy anymore. However, this particular story about asbestos in our public schools involves behavior that is so egregious, so reprehensible, that after reading it, you may want to get out the torches, pitchforks, tar and feathers…

His name is Benjamin G. Gladding of Norfolk, NY, and his position was that of Building and Grounds Superintendent for the local school district in this small community located about 150 miles north of Albany. As such, he was ultimately responsible for the maintenance of school buildings, which included dealing with the asbestos that is present in too many parts of these aging structures. In 2006, Gladding deliberately falsified a report on the condition of Jefferson Elementary, omitting facts on the friable (crumbling) condition of asbestos lagging on building pipes. This asbestos-containing dust wound up on the floor of the building, where the smallest disturbance would send fibers into the air breathed by student and faculty alike. In addition, “thousands of linear feet of friable asbestos” has gone missing and cannot be accounted for, according to U.S.

Attorney Craig Benedict, who is the federal prosecutor on the case. According to state and federal laws, strict records must be kept when asbestos waste is removed and disposed of. Gladding claimed that he had not removed the asbestos in question when interviewed by EPA investigators in February of 2007. “Mr. Gladding has admitted serious criminal violations of the law,” Benedict said in what may be quite an understatement. Gladding, who was suspended on 11 February without pay over the allegations, has since pleaded guilty to two violations of the Federal Clean Air act. According to the plea agreement, Gladding will resign from the post he has held for nearly three decades when he is sentenced in July, although the Norfolk School Board may fire him between now and then. The judge in the case could sentence Gladding to as much as six years in prison and assess fines totaling as much as $350,000.