Quietly and almost without notice, ex-Water Department Superintendent John S. Webb pled guilty to criminal charges for failing to test Forest Park’s water.
The guilty plea comes almost a year after the Illinois Environ-mental Protection Agency (IEPA) slapped Forest Park with violation notices for failing to collect water sample results and an investigation into Webb’s conduct was initiated.
“What I plead guilty to was a technicality,” Webb said during an interview last week. “What was done never harmed or took a chance on compromising the water system.”
Webb was charged with failing to correctly test Forest Park’s water and knowingly submitting false testing times and locations on Dec. 13, 2003, Jan. 5, 2004 and Jan 14, 2004.
He waived his right to a jury, receiving a bench trial on Feb. 1. The judge sentenced Webb to one year of court supervision, community service and $1,154 in court fees.
“What he plead guilty to was that he admits that he didn’t take the test from every one of the spots,” said Bob Gevirtz, Webb’s attorney. “He took tests from other areas that ensured the safety of the water and no one was ever in danger.”
The court supervision sentencing means that no criminal conviction will be entered into Webb’s file.
“While he pled guilty he was not and has not been convicted,” Gevirtz said. “Supervision is a disposition in Illinois provided to first offenders. If they meet all requirements of the supervision, no conviction is ever entered.”
The IEPA issued the violation notice on March 11, 2004 after the village learned of a possible testing error.
Forest Park’s investigation into the matter showed inconsistencies between Webb’s reports and his actual activities, said Mayor Anthony Calderone in the October 13, 2004 issue of the REVIEW.
Following the IEPA investigation, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine filed criminal charges against Webb on Sept. 30, 2004.
Webb resigned on April 1, 2004 after Calderone asked Commissioner Patrick Doolin to fire Webb. Doolin refused, stating that firing Webb would be unfair treatment of a long-time Forest Park employee.
Webb, a Class C Water Operator, was responsible for collecting 15 water samples throughout Forest Park each month, testing them for coliform bacteria and sending the results to a lab in Hillside, which then forwarded the results to the IEPA.
The surveillance reports allegedly put Webb at White Hen Pantry and Ed’s Way grocery store during some of the time he claimed to be testing the village’s water, Calderone told the REVIEW last March.
No water-related illnesses were reported to authorities, and no bacteria has been found in Forest Park.
Following Webb’s resignation, Forest Park entered into an agreement to use a water tester from neighboring North Riverside, but today the village has its own tester.
“Subsequent to Steve’s resigning and the separation agreement, a member of our public works department enrolled in the Class C test, passed the test and passed the state-wide exam,” said Commissioner Patrick Doolin. “He doesn’t hold the title of water superintendent because, through the process of restructuring water works, we have eliminated the position and merely have a Class C water operator on staff.”
Webb is scheduled to complete his one-year term of court supervision on Feb. 7, 2006.