|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 02 January 2008 12:56|
Camp Verde Sanitary District plant operator Rick Spears was arrested Dec. 22 on felony charges of forgery, fraudulent schemes and taking the identity of another.
Now he wants the court to decide if there is probable cause to justify those charges.
The charges stem from the allegation that Spears forged his Arizona Department of Environmental Quality credentials as a wastewater water collections system operator using documents he found on the Internet.
Spears had previously held that certification, but his license had lapsed. He admitted as much and told the sanitary district board that he would take responsibility for his actions.
Spears resigned from the town’s payroll and was almost immediately rehired by the sanitary district, which had been reimbursing the town for employee salaries. Camp Verde Marshal Dave Smith said at the time he would not be seeking criminal charges.
That changed when a warrant for Spears’ arrest was issued Dec. 22; Spears turned himself in that afternoon. He was interviewed by detectives with the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office and released the next day on his own recognizance.
Spears, 39, and his attorney, public defender Matthew Springer, stood in Yavapai County Superior Court Thursday, Dec. 27, to request a preliminary hearing.
His fellow employees at the sanitary district, along with district board Chairman Rob Witt, sat with Spears in the courtroom to show their support.
Judge Warren Darrow scheduled the hearing for Thursday, Jan. 10, to review the evidence and determine how the state will proceed.
In the meantime, Spears is still on the job and Witt said he continues to stand behind the district’s employees.
Witt characterized the criminal proceedings against Spears as “harassment” by the town.
“Whatever [Spears] did or didn’t do, he and the other employees are getting the job done,” Witt said.
Witt also questioned the motives behind Spears’ arrest, accusing the town of using it to deflect attention away from its own problems.
Witt said the town was in breech of nearly every part of its agreement with the district, one signed in May to help provide funding for the new wastewater treatment plant in preparation for an eventual town takeover of the sewer system pending the results of the November 2008 election.
The town, concerned with the nuts and bolts of the agreement, has been working with the district in an attempt to rollback the document and essentially start over from square one.
Spears said he was also surprised by the arrest because it was his understanding that certification matters are usually handled internally by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
ADEQ was already conducting its own investigation into Spears’ falsified credentials, spokesman Mark Shaffer said, and it was unclear what effect Spears’ arrest would have on those proceedings.
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