MOUNT VERNON — Long time city employee, and current utility operations foreman, Dick Lang signed a resignation agreement with the city of Mount Vernon in order to halt a disciplinary investigation.
“The point was he either resigns or we have to take some other action, and he agreed to resign,” said Dave Glass, safety-service director for Mount Vernon.
If Lang refused to resign, the city was prepared to terminate his employment.
“There was only one other option for me,” Glass said.
Because of the agreement, he said, the city will drop any pending disciplinary investigation and will not pursue any administrative or other action against Lang.
As part of the agreement, which goes into effect Monday, Lang is required to reimburse the city for the cost of topsoil as well as the manpower and equipment used to deliver the soil to his son’s house in the spring of 2008.
“He has to pay back $153.47. That’s the topsoil, a driver, the back hoe, that kind of thing,” Glass said.
Glass admitted the entire situation was difficult to reign in because he would hear things from other city workers about the situation, but could not get hard corroborating information. All the while, Lang denied the activity ever happened.
“For a year he denied that he did anything,” Glass said. “... That was another factor in saying either you go or we’ll send you — he spent the first year telling us he hadn’t done it. Not only did you steal it, you tried to hide it.”
According to documents released by the city to the News under a public records request, Glass sent a memo on March 17, 2009, to Judy Scott, administrator of water treatment and distribution, regarding three issues with Lang.
Glass asked Scott to address a load of topsoil delivered to Lang’s son’s house in early 2008, 5 1/2 hours of reported overtime when only on the job site for one hour and information on the locations of three trailers. Glass also asked Scott to obtain Lang’s explanation for the matters he considered as “either theft of time or service.”
In her written response to Glass dated March 20, 2009, Scott said she thought the incident with the topsoil was closed as no further information was shared with her.
“When you and I discussed this last, about a year ago, it was my understanding that this accusation was made but never verified,” Scott wrote.
Scott wrote that she felt disciplinary actions a year after the incident were inappropriate and recommended Lang pay the city restitution of $14.50 for the topsoil.
According to a Mount Vernon Police Department report, Scott told Det. Craig Feeney that Lang initially told her soil from a dig was used. Several months later, Lang admitted to Scott that it was topsoil, but that it had been there a while. She also stated the use of employees and equipment was a violation of work rules, but did not make any recommendations to Glass regarding these violations.
“On the question of the scoop of topsoil, which wasn’t real good soil, I will pay $14.50 to the city,” Lang wrote on March 19, 2009. “They can take it out of my pay. This wasn’t a good decision on my part, but like I said, it wasn’t our good dirt.”
In regard to accusations that Lang would leave the job site before a repair was finished, Glass said there seemed to be a misunderstanding in the ranks as to what was required of Lang.
“That was certainly [their] opinion, it was never mine,” Glass said. “Yes, you get called in. Yes, you get a minimum four hours. But you stay there until the job is done. Nobody just sets up the crew and just leaves. They’ve already been told that, and that’s when we took the overtime pay away.”
“I made a mistake in the overtime log for an hour that I shouldn’t have been paid. I owe the city 1 1/2 hours of pay that can be deducted from my pay,” Lang said in his statement from 2009.
Glass said his expectations of the foreman’s position are now well known throughout the distribution department, and that there is more to the job than arranging for a crew to start the work. In fact, he said, the city is examining the process and protocols within the distribution department to make the department more efficient.
In response to the missing trailer, Lang acknowledged he gave permission to another employee to use the trailer for personal use.
“I didn’t see any harm since other equipment has been borrowed, too, from other employees, even employees that don’t work in distribution,” Lang wrote. “I guess that was a bad decision on my part, too. But no one was trying to get over on anyone. The damn trailer just sits down there at the garage.”
Glass said the city is now taking a harder stance on personal use of city tools and equipment.
“We’ve been meeting with department heads and moving forward. We’re keeping a lot closer track of inventory,” he said. “It’s real simple. If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it home.”
The only exception to this rule, he said, is the city’s continued relationship with other entities to loan out equipment when needed.
“If [Knox County Engineer] Jim Henry needs to borrow our backing truck, we’ll cooperate with the other entities. We’ve cooperated with all the other entities around. It’s the right thing to do,” Glass said.
Lang, who remains off work under a work-related injury, will retain the rights to his current worker’s compensation claim and his vested benefits. He has also agreed to not apply for re-employment with the city.
“The reality of it was Dick was actually a good worker, but he has some quirks,” Glass said.
In a phone call to Lang on Thursday, Lang declined to comment on his resignation.