August 12, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the former operator of the Wrightstown Municipal Utilities Authority pleaded guilty today to a criminal charge for using the municipal authority to dispose of waste from his private septic disposal company without proper authorization and failing to report that waste disposal to the state as required.
Rodman Lucas, 62, of Pemberton Township, N.J., pleaded guilty today to an accusation charging him with third-degree conspiracy to tamper with public records before Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook in Burlington County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Lucas be sentenced to a term of probation, with a condition that he serve up to 364 days in the county jail. He will be permanently barred from public office and employment. Sentencing for Lucas is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2020.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis took the guilty plea for the Corruption Bureau within the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). The investigation began with a referral from the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, which initially investigated the matter.
“We formed OPIA to root out the type of misconduct and abuse of trust that undermines faith in government,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This case was referred to OPIA after an initial investigation by the Office of the State Comptroller, which began when local residents complained about what they saw happening at the Wrightstown Municipal Utilities Authority. We urge members of the public to contact our corruption tipline – 844-OPIA-TIPS – if they have reason to suspect that a public official is abusing his or her position and authority.”
Lucas was hired in October 2012 as the Wrightstown Municipal Utilities Authority’s (WMUA) plant operator/operations manager. Within a few months of taking the job, Lucas, who also owns a private septic waste disposal company called Aqua Clean Toilet Systems LLC, began dumping septic waste collected by his company’s trucks directly into a manhole at the WMUA without proper authorization. The WMUA at that time only processed incoming wastewater from the local sewage system, and it had not officially accepted septic waste privately collected from residential and commercial septic tanks for several years. When the WMUA previously accepted such waste, it was always tested and documented, and if deemed acceptable, it was received through a special filtration line or channel. Lucas continued regularly dumping his firm’s septic waste at the WMUA in this improper manner for about five years until complaints about the conduct were raised at a WMUA board meeting in September 2017.
Lucas ceased dumping at the WMUA a few months later, but the issue triggered an investigation by the Office of the State Comptroller. That investigation and the subsequent OPIA investigation determined that over a period of approximately five years from early 2013 through early 2018, Lucas disposed of more than 600,000 gallons of Aqua Clean’s septic waste at the WMUA.
Wastewater management facilities like the WMUA must regularly file various reports with the state Department of Environmental Protection, including monthly “residuals transfer reports” (RTR’s) showing the amounts of incoming and outgoing waste, including the total amount of any septic waste received. All of the RTR’s filed by the WMUA during Lucas’s tenure as plant operator, while he was dumping septic waste from Aqua Clean from 2013 through 2018, show only outgoing waste, but no incoming septic waste. That is the basis for the criminal charge to which Lucas pleaded guilty.
Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. In December 2019, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office. That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety for the investigation and prosecution of state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
Defense Attorney: Robert M. Perry, Esq., Rosenberg Perry & Associates, Mount Holly, N.J.
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