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Judge: Lewis County trail coordinator should get 60-day unpaid suspension

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County recreational trail coordinator Robert C. Diehl, accused of billing the county for gravel he used at his house, should receive an unpaid suspension totaling 60 days on a finding of incompetence, an administrative judge is recommending.

The Lewis County Board of Legislators will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss the judge’s recommendation, which was delivered to county officials earlier this week. A 206-page transcript of the Dec. 26 administrative hearing held by retired state Supreme Court Judge John S. Parker also will be considered.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Judge Parker recommended the county reprimand Mr. Diehl and suspend him without pay for 60 days, finding him not guilty of gross negligence, but guilty of incompetence.

The recommendation acknowledged 30 days of suspension without pay already has been served. Mr. Diehl was suspended without pay Nov. 13; however, because he is a civil service employee, his pay was reinstated after 30 days.

Mr. Diehl was accused of submitting to the county a purchase order and voucher for payment in late October for stone products from V.S. Virkler & Son that included $3,262.97 worth of gravel that was delivered to his residence for his personal use. The discrepancy was discovered after payment was made.

At the December hearing, Mr. Diehl admitted receiving the gravel at his residence; however, he testified the purchase order he submitted for payment was made in error.

A criminal case is pending. Mr. Diehl is charged with third-degree grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct. He has not yet appeared in Lewis County Court.

Adding to the tumult surrounding the suspended trails coordinator, multiple sources on Friday evening confirmed that a snowmobile and trailer owned by the county were picked up from Mr. Diehl’s property by county Highway Department employees about 4 p.m. Friday, and that Mr. Diehl attempted to file a police report about their absence before he was informed of the county’s action.

“It wasn’t stolen — it was retrieved,” said county Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson.

Mr. Stanford said he had heard that Mr. Diehl had the snowmobile on Sunday, adding he thought it would have been picked up when the suspension started in November. He attributed the confusion about possession of the snowmobile to the speed of the suspension, and said the county already had confiscated an all-terrain vehicle and tractor from Mr. Diehl.

“I thought everything was said and done with it,” he said.

Mr. Stanford said he confirmed the county’s ownership of the snowmobile on Thursday and on Friday asked Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, to initiate the retrieval by the Highway Department. Mr. Tabolt is filling in for County Manager David H. Pendergast, who has been out of work because of illness.

Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli said attempts to reach Mr. Diehl before the pickup were unsuccessful.

He said he had not experienced an incident like the one Friday in his career.

Monday’s meeting, set for 4:30 p.m. in the second-floor boardroom at the County Office Building, is expected to be held primarily in executive session. However, any change in job status would require a public vote by lawmakers.

Times staff writer Gordon Block contributed to this report.

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