Ex-Crestwood official pleads guilty in water scandal
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org April 11, 2013 3:28PM
Updated: May 13, 2013 6:27AM
One of two former Crestwood employees indicted in the village’s water scandal pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to state regulators about the village using tainted well water in its drinking water supply for more than 20 years.
Frank Scaccia, 61, Crestwood’s former water operator, made a conditional plea before U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall in Chicago. He and Theresa Neubauer, the former head of the water department, were to go on trial next Monday.
Scaccia said he did not reveal the use of the polluted well over the years in “following directives in order to (keep) my job.” He said the person who ordered him to cover up the scheme was the one identified in the indictment as “Public Official A,” whom prosecutors contend was longtime former Mayor Chester Stranczek.
Scaccia and Neubauer, who later became Crestwood’s police chief and is on leave from that position, were charged with lying to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency investigators about the village using water containing vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, to supplement its drinking water supply.
In light of Scaccia’s guilty plea, Neubauer’s trial has been moved to April 22. His attorneys said Scaccia has not agreed to testify against Neubauer.
Under the unusual plea agreement, Scaccia pleaded guilty to one charge and had 22 others dropped. However, he will be able to appeal two earlier rulings by Gottschall, including one in which she denied his request to suppress six incriminating statements he made to IEPA investigators a year ago.
Scaccia’s attorneys claim that when he talked to the IEPA, he was told the information he provided would be confidential. Scaccia also insisted on “whistleblower protection” for speaking to the investigators, his lawyers said.
Gottschall ruled that the IEPA never promised Scaccia any protection and kept his statements from the media and his employers, thus preserving confidentiality.
If the U.S. Court of Appeals were to find in favor of Scaccia, he could withdraw his guilty plea, all 23 charges could be reinstated against him and he would go to trial, according to the plea agreement. He is next due in court May 15 for a hearing.
Stranczek, who was mayor for 38 years until 2007, was not named in the indictment. He resides in Florida and suffers from dementia related to Parkinson’s disease, according to authorities.