Former Youngwood worker accused of parking vehicles in floodwater faces trial | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Former Youngwood worker accused of parking vehicles in floodwater faces trial

Paul Peirce

Two Youngwood public works employees testified Monday that during a September 2018 flood, another worker admitted he intentionally moved a dump truck and street sweeper into waist-deep water so the borough could collect insurance money to replace the decades-old equipment.

After listening to nearly two hours of testimony at a preliminary hearing, Unity District Judge Michael Mahady ruled there was sufficient evidence for Clifford A. Long, 60, to stand trial on charges of criminal mischief and institutional vandalism.

Supervisor Austin Erhard testified he was working with Long on Sept. 10, 2018, as water kept rising from nearby Sewickley Creek around the public works garage during heavy rainfall. Erhard said Long and he were in the field, but after getting a warning from workers at a nearby sewage treatment plant, he instructed Long to head back to the garage to move the equipment out of harm’s way.

When Erhard got back to the borough garage, he saw that a 2004 borough street sweeper had been moved from inside the garage to lower land in floodwater near a salt bin, “which was not normal,” he testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro. He testified he saw Long speaking with Councilman Tim Vastell.

“I walked into a conversation where Long said he should move the (1995) Ford F-450 into the floodwater, too — for insurance purposes,” Erhard said.

“Did you raise concerns?” Ciaramitaro asked.

“I certainly did. I said that would not be a good idea,” Erhard said.

Vastell is not charged. He could not be reached for comment following the hearing.

A short time later, Erhard testified he heard the truck start and later saw it had been moved from the side of the public works garage into the floodwater. On cross-examination by Long’s private attorney, Ken Burkley of Greensburg, Erhard admitted that he did not see Long drive the truck into the water.

However, Erhard added that the next morning, he asked Long about moving the equipment into the floodwater.

“He said he moved it and when he moved the dump truck, he also poured water over the engine. I told him it was really stupid, but what was done, was done,” he said.

He said he reported the incident to borough Manager Diane Schaefer.

Another borough worker, Jonathan Petrie, said he saw the dump truck and sweeper sitting in the floodwater and was concerned.

“I asked Cliffie if I should go move the equipment out of the water, and he said no. In addition to moving the equipment into the floodwater, he said he had dumped water over both engines and neither would start,” Petrie said.

Borough officials reported Long voluntarily retired within a week of the incident. County Detective Randy Gardner spent eight months investigating the incident before filing charges May 30.

Schaefer reported that the borough recently received information that street sweeper, valued at $15,000 by the borough’s insurer, was repaired and placed back into service. The dump truck, valued at $1,200, was also repaired but is no longer in service.

Schaefer said the street sweeper, which was reliable prior to the flood, has been repeatedly sent back for repairs.

Under questioning from Burkley, Erhard said he later found out that the sweeper did not have a valid inspection prior to Sept. 10, 2018.

Burkley pleaded not guilty on behalf of Long. He asked Mahady to dismiss both complaints because there was no evidence that either piece of equipment was fully operable before the flood.

However, Ciaramitaro countered that the borough employees who testified said the equipment “was fully functional before the flood damages but not now.”

Mahady agreed with Ciaramitaro and ruled there was sufficient evidence for Long to stand trial in common pleas court.

Long and Burkley declined to comment after the hearing. Long remains free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .


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Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review
Former Youngwood street department employee Clifford A. Long, 60, declined comment after preliminary hearing Monday on charges of allegedly purposely damaging borough equipment in 2018.
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Route 119 in Youngwood was closed because of flooding on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.
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