Back in September 2008 in this space, we asked this question:
"After the recent indictment of Harlem's public works director for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, two key questions hang in the air:
"Is there another shoe? If so, when will it drop?"
We now know the answer to the first: No. That renders the answer to the second moot.
Daniel Cason, the 66-year-old former director of the city's public works department, received a 12-month prison sentence Tuesday for three violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
Cason pled guilty to the charges back in March. He received prison time and $3,330 in fines Tuesday from federal Judge Randy Hall, along with 100 hours of community service and a year of probation after his release.
Cason admitted using a portable pump to drain untreated sewage from a pond at the city's wastewater treatment plant into Uchee Creek, and making false entries on sewage-plant records.
Judge Hall found the charges serious enough to send Cason to prison. But as the case comes to a close, it's obvious that Cason's conviction is a rebuke to a handful of city critics who for nearly three years have tried to claim the case was some kind of grand conspiracy involving government officials at all levels.
The only "conspiracy," it turns out, was with other wastewater plant workers who helped Cason pump what one testified was mostly rainwater from a pond that was being repaired.
It's important to keep in mind that until only a few years ago, that wasn't even a crime. Increasingly strict federal rules designed to keep contamination out of our waterways now say differently, and old-timers like Cason easily can run afoul of laws if they fail to keep up with changes in them.
Ignorance of the law, however, is never an excuse - especially for someone in charge of a municipal facility, even one as relatively small as Harlem's. And for that, Cason will report to prison in January despite strong community support for his freedom.
The good news to come from all this is that Harlem residents have assurance that their city's hyper-scrutinized facility is now better-run, and that any problems were in fact both minor and isolated.
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