Judge hears arguments in waste district embezzlement case

Jan 15, 2019

BROCKTON — Lawyers gathered Monday at Plymouth Superior Court to present their arguments on issues involved in the ongoing civil embezzlement suit against Ray E. Pickles, former long-time executive director of the Carver Marion Wareham Refuse Disposal District, his wife and the former Carver health agent.

Lawyers for retired health agent Robert Tinkham Jr. and Diane-Bondi Pickles argued for increased access to the waste disposal district’s financial documents and to reduce, eliminate or clarify the charges against their clients.

Judge Robert Cosgrove will make a ruling on their arguments in the coming days.

Lawyers for Pickles, the key figure in the suit and incumbent town clerk in Marion, did not appear in court.

The Waste Disposal District was formed to allow the three towns that compose it to negotiate jointly with the SEMASS waste to energy facility in Rochester. It is funded, in part, by money from the three towns.

After the towns received assessments from the district in 2017 for the first time since 2015, officials started asking questions about district finances, discovered a variety of financial irregularities and forced Pickles out of his position of 45 years in January 2018.

In June 2018, the district filed a civil embezzlement suit against Pickles, Biondi-Pickles and Tinkham, accusing them of embezzling $838,458.22.

The first issue to come before the court on Monday was a question about five boxes of waste district records that are currently stored in the Marion Town House. Notified that the defendants’ attorneys wanted access to the documents, the district’s attorney offered to schedule a time when all parties could be present to review the documents before bringing them to a copier.

Tinkham’s lawyer, John Fink, argued that getting four different legal representatives together for days to review that many documents is unreasonable, and that not being able to see the documents has limited his ability to build his case.

Also on Monday, Fink argued that his client had filed a notice of intent to dismiss the district’s original June filing but did not file an answer before the district filed a second amended complaint.

That amended filing accused the defendants of seven different offenses including fraud, conspiring and failure to form their fiduciary duty to protect the waste disposal district’s funds.

The amended filing also asked for triple damages should they be found responsible, and that the defendants cover the court costs and a trial by jury.

“The District seeks to recoup those funds for the benefit of the District’s taxpayers who ultimately bear the burden of the defendants’ misconduct,” the district wrote in court documents.

At the Jan. 14 hearing, Fink moved to dismiss five of the claims against his client in the district’s August complaint. Leaving only two complaints of conversion of funds for personal use and money received under false pretenses and without right.

Pickles, Bondi-Pickles and Moss Hollow Management, the consulting company that the Pickles formed to contract with the waste district for Pickles’ management services, all responded to the original complaint before the waste district filed its amended complaint.

But Fink argues that because Tinkham did not it would give his client two complaints to argue against, which is confusing. Tinkham now legally has to respond to both the original and amended complaint.

Fink also said the district “made no effort to differentiate between defendants,” in making its claims, making it impossible to tell what specifically his client is accused of.

Gregg Corbo, another attorney for the district, responded that pre-trial legal complaints do not need to prove the facts of the case, only state them.

William Harrington, who represented Bondi-Pickles, claimed that his client should not be in the case because she is only Pickles’ wife.

Cosgrove pointed out that Bondi-Pickles’ name was on the account to which the allegedly embezzled funds were distributed.

Harrington responded that involvement in a joint account is not adequate basis for her inclusion in the case – and that the only count directly against Bondi-Pickles is for a fraud committed in 2001, for which the statute of limitations has expired.

The attorneys for the waste disposal district argued that because Bondi-Pickles is listed as the president of Moss Hollow, she was involved.

Cosgrove did not provide a date by which he would make his ruling.