Pranks Involving Feces and Bombs Aid Claimant's Bid for TD After Discharge
Monday, February 1, 2016 | 1115 | 0 | 3 min read
They say it's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. According to testimony from a workers' compensation claimant and other witnesses, the fun and games at a rural Colorado water district included exploding bombs and leaving bags of human feces in lunches.
The Daily Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction reported Thursday on the "pranks" played by a supervisor for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, which came to light because of a workers' compensation claim filed by former water district employee Bill Bailey.
According to testimony at a Nov. 16 hearing, water district supervisor Aaron English attempted to defecate on employees while they worked in ditches below, built makeshift bombs and triggered them to detonate when employees turned the ignition switches on their trucks, frequently shot off golf balls and tubes of caulking from a potato gun and planted bags of his feces in employee lunches. The general manager of the water district, Steve Fletcher, knew about the pranks but promoted English to a supervisory position anyway.
Those pranks ended up forcing the water association to pay more than it wanted to on Bailey's workers' compensation claim. Administrative Law Judge Kimberly B. Turnbow ordered the association to pay Bailey temporary disability benefits even though he had been fired for insubordination in May 2015. Turnbow ruled that the alleged insubordination was just a pretext for the termination.
“Out of the hundreds of cases I’ve handled, this is easily the most bizarre I’ve seen in terms of facts, so we are very pleased," claimants' attorney Sean Goodbody told the News Sentinel. "We are happy that Mr. Bailey got a little justice out of this."
Bailey filed a claim after injuring his lower back while working for the water association in February 2015. English, his crew chief, told him to take a few days off, according to testimony. Bailey had complained to Fletcher about his supervisor's pranks the previous year and asked for permission to stop communicating with English. He testified that Fletcher told him he had to communicate with English or find another job.
In May, three months after he filed a workers' compensation claim, the water association fired Bailey without giving him a reason. During the November hearing before ALJ Turnbow, Fletcher admitted he had been aware of some of the pranks for years but promoted English anyway.
English acknowledged that he had, indeed, filled milk jugs with flammable accelerant and wired them to the spark plugs of work trucks so they would explode when the ignition switch was turned. He also admitted to hiding jugs of accelerant in tall grass so that workers would ignite the liquid with their torches when they burned scrub off of the banks of canals. Judge Turnbow, at one point, reminded him of his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.
In an interview with the News Sentinel, water association President George Etchart said that the judge's order was one-sided and that he had circulated a copy of the order in a "blatant attempt to insult the association, to discredit the association."
Etchart told the newspaper that English and Fletcher are still employed by the association, but "decisions haven't been made yet as to what ramifications are going to happen."