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September 2007

City officials found guilty of environmental crimes
Elk City officials used prisoners to remove asbestos

A federal jury found two Oklahoma City officials guilty of negligently allowing the release of asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant, in a case jointly investigated and prosecuted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice and the State of Oklahoma.

The evidence presented at trial showed that the city manager of Elk City, Oklahoma, Guy R. Hylton, Jr. and a building superintendent, Chick Arthur Little, used inmates from the Elk City Work Center to remove asbestos from an old railroad depot in 2003. The inmates were not provided with protective clothing and other protective measures, as required by law. By doing so, city officials negligently caused the release of asbestos into the air and risked the health of the inmates.

“Public officials used prisoners to remove cancer-causing asbestos without protective equipment,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “All people deserve protection from exposure to environmental hazards.”

The city purchased the Elk City Railroad Depot in May of 2002 for renovation and use by the city. The Depot was built in the early 1900's and contained asbestos insulation.

Additionally, the jury found that Little lied to investigating agents when he falsely stated that the waste from the Depot had been properly disposed in a permitted landfill.

The jury found both defendants not guilty of illegally disposing of hazardous asbestos. The jury also found Hylton not guilty of lying to investigators about the disposal of asbestos.

Hylton faces up to one year in prison plus a fine of up to $100,000. Little faces up to five years in prison plus a fine of up to $250,000. Hylton and Little were originally indicted by a federal grand jury on December 19, 2006.

The case is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy Sengel and Nick Lillard.