Restitution ends case at landfill

August 09, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Three former Carroll County landfill employees yesterday avoided conviction on charges that they stole metals from Hoods Mill Landfill by agreeing to repay the county within one year and perform 50 hours of community service each.

Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. gave the three men -- one of whom was rehired by the county two weeks ago for a different job -- probation before judgment, which means they can have the charges erased from their records after completing probation.

The amount the men owe the county will be determined at a later court hearing. County officials have not said how much they believe the men owe, but the men's lawyers said they disagree about amounts that have been discussed.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christy A. McFaul said an accountant will testify at the restitution hearing about specific sums. If the defendants dispute the figures, Judge Beck said the court will decide how much they should pay. A hearing date was not set.

Records from an in-house county investigation conducted last year indicate the three may have stolen from $11,200 to $36,700 worth of scrap metal.

The records also show that 15 other employees at Hoods Mill and Northern landfills were suspected of stealing scrap metals or sharing in the profits. The records show that $34,500 to $89,400 worth of metal may have been stolen from January 1990 to November 1993.

Mount Airy attorney Mackenzie A. Kantruss, who represents Martin D. Norwood, 47, of Taylorsville, said, "They [county officials] don't have the proper documentation to support the claims they've made."

Mr. Norwood and the two other defendants -- Donald V. Rhoten, 36, of Hampstead, and Richard L. Sell, 40, of Westminster -- were arrested in November in a state police sting operation. They were charged with stealing metals from Hoods Mill Landfill and selling them to a Pennsylvania recycler.

Before their hearing yesterday, the three men talked in a courthouse hallway. One commented that they had been made "scapegoats" in the matter.

County officials reprimanded several other landfill employees for allegedly stealing metals, but no one else was arrested.

The men turned down an opportunity in court to say anything about the charges. After the hearing, their attorney advised them not to talk to reporters.

The three men each received probation before judgment on a charge of theft of over $300. The maximum penalty for the felony charge would have been 15 years in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

In addition to paying restitution and performing community service, Judge Beck ordered the men to pay court costs.

As part of the plea agreement, the state dropped a second theft charge and a conspiracy charge against each defendant.

In a statement of facts read into the court record, Ms. McFaul said all three men confessed to stealing metals from Hoods Mill Landfill. Mr. Norwood said he had done so for almost a year, Mr. Rhoten for five years, and Mr. Sell for eight years, according to the statement.

Mr. Norwood returned to work with the county July 28, Public Works Director Keith R. Kirschnick said. He now is on a road maintenance crew and is paid at a rate two levels below what he earned as a landfill equipment operator.

He earns $8.02 per hour now, Human Resources and Personnel Director Jimmie L. Saylor said. His former salary is not public record, she said. Landfill equipment operators earn $9.56 per hour to $13.71 per hour.

Mr. Norwood was hired by the county in August 1977, she said.

Mr. Kirschnick, whose department oversees landfill and roads operations, said Mr. Norwood filed a grievance with the county to get his job back. The decision to rehire Mr. Norwood was made before the grievance process was completed, Mr. Kirschnick said.

Mr. Norwood had previously worked in the roads department, Mr. Kirschnick said.

He said Mr. Rhoten and Mr. Sell have not asked for their jobs back and have not filed grievances.

Baltimore attorney Leonard Levine, who represents Mr. Rhoten and Mr. Sell, said he is trying to determine whether the county had a metal recycling program during the time the men were accused of stealing.

County Recycling Manager Vinnie Legge said her files show that the county began a metal recycling program in November 1989. Before that, metal was buried in the landfills.

In November 1989, the county signed a contract to sell metal from the landfills to United Iron and Metal Co. Inc. of Baltimore for $5 per gross ton, Ms. Legge said.

The contract with United Iron expires at the end of this month, she said. As of Sept. 1, Integrity Recycling Inc. of Westminster will pay the county $21.52 a ton for the metal.

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