Fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy charges filed against former Carver, Marion, Wareham regional refuse district manager

Jul 2, 2018

The Carver, Marion and Wareham Regional Refuse District has filed civil embezzlement charges against Marion Town Clerk Ray Pickles, his wife Diane Bondi-Pickles and retired Carver Health Agent Robert Tinkham Jr.

According to documents on file in Plymouth Superior Court, the trio is accused of embezzling more than $800,000 over a five-year period. District officials requested the court to award damages, in an amount up to three times the actual damages, plus interest, costs and attorney’s fees. A court order has frozen the assets of all the defendants, including pension payments from the Plymouth County Retirement Board.

The complaint details a litany of alleged financial misconduct related to the operation of the Carver, Marion and Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District.

The lawsuit charges Pickles, his wife and Tinkham with fraud, civil conspiracy, civil theft and breach of fiduciary duty.

In total, the trio is accused of embezzling $838,457 over a five-year period from disposal district coffers.

According to court documents, Pickles “withdrew more than $294,548 of the District’s funds for his own personal use…including approximately $113,321 in unauthorized checks and more than $150,000 in cash withdrawals from 2016-2018 and $31,277 in mileage reimbursements from 2012-2017.”

Pickles is also accused of paying himself $13,793 to refuel his personal boat, which is docked at Barden’s Boat Yard in Marion.

Payments were made from the district to Pickles through the Moss Hollow Management Corporation, a consultant firm that had been incorporated by Pickles and his wife. Moss Hollow was involuntarily dissolved by the Secretary of State’s Corporations Division in 2017. However, the lawsuit states Pickles still made payments to himself through the dissolved corporation for his work as executive director.

Regarding Tinkham, the complaint accuses him of conspiring with Pickles to take $262,000 of the district’s fund for his own personal use from 2010 to 2018.

Founded in 1973, the district was formed as a regional approach to handle waste from the three towns. It allows those towns to jointly contract with waste-to-energy facility SEMASS in Rochester, and it operates transfer stations in each town. The district is funded by fees charged to users of district facilities, assessments from the member towns and agreements with third parties.

The district’s day-to-day operations are overseen by an executive director. Pickles served in that position from 1973 until Jan. 29, 2018 when he was discharged by members of the Carver, Marion and Wareham Regional Refuse District Committee, which has ultimate authority over the district.

In Pickles’ absence, the committee has taken over operations and will perform a forensic audit of the district’s financials in the wake of Pickles’ discharge.

According to the court documents, the alleged misconduct came to light after Pickles charged each of the towns an assessment in 2017 without the district committee’s authorization. It was the first time the towns had received an assessment in five years. Those assessments totaled $89,000, $59,000 and $25,000 for Wareham, Carver and Marion, respectively.

Surprised by the bill, officials started looking closely at the disposal districts’ finances and found several discrepancies.

A preliminary hearing set for June 28 will be rescheduled, according to court documents.

District officials are still looking into the financial situation. An in-depth audit of the past six years is set to begin soon. The last time an audit was performed was in 2012.

Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson said he could not comment on the case.

“Because it’s pending litigation, there’s not much I can say,” Dawson said.

Pickles has a long history in local government. He is town administrator for Gosnold and served as Marion’s town administrator from 1972 until 2001. Currently, Pickles is still serving as Marion’s Town Clerk, an elected position. Dawson noted town bylaws don’t allow a recall election.

“The town does not have a recall option in its bylaws,” he said. “I’m not aware of any mechanism in the law other than voters choosing to not to re-elect.”

Despite repeated attempts, Pickles could not be reached for comment. A call to Tinkham went unreturned.