Police Investigation: H&H Septic stole approximately $31,440.02 from City of Rhinelander
Story By Dan Hagen
Local News Published 12/16/2020 6:45PM
Rhinelander - According to a police investigation, approximately $31,440.02 was stolen by a local septic company from the city of Rhinelander over the past six years – and a city employee let it happen.
Det. Sgt. Kyle Parish with the Rhinelander Police Department was first alerted to possible theft in the spring of 2019.
According to a police investigation obtained by WJFW Newswatch 12, a treatment plant employee, who will be unnamed, noticed fresh tire tracks in the snow going up to the septage receiving station. It was on the weekend, and septic wasn't allowed to be dropped off on weekends. The employee then checked the log and observed no entries by any septic companies. A short time later, the employee received a text message from Steven Vick, the owner of H&H Septic. The text read "I was the one @ that dump @ that plant. Steve get my drift."
Investigating further, Parish observed a series of dishonest actions stretching back six years. The two major transgressions by H&H were logging incorrect amounts of septic, including sometimes not logging anything at all, and incorrectly logging "holding tank" instead of "septage," which costs significantly less money to H&H.
Holding tank is mostly water, so it doesn't require much treatment by the plant. It costs $14.50 per 1000 gallons for a septic company to drop off. Septage has more solid waste in it and requires much more treatment by the plant. Because of that it costs more to drop off, at $60 per 1000 gallons.
"When you're dumping thousands and thousands of gallons a day, it doesn't take long to add up," said Det. Sgt. Parish.
Police say all of this was made possible by Rhinelander Public Works Director Tim Kingman. Kingman is friends with Steven Vick and enlisted Steven's son Bradley as his right-hand man at the Rhinelander Waste Water Treatment Plant. According to the police investigation, Kingman hunts with the Vicks on their land.
According to the investigation, Tim Kingman engaged in two main transgressions. The first was allowing H&H all-hours access to the plant by giving them the gate code - while ignoring his employees' complaints that H&H trucks appeared after hours. The second is that Kingman changed the amounts of septic waste dropped off by H&H in the plant's internal billing system.
When confronted by Det. Parish on the latter transgression, Kingman claimed he unwittingly made errors in the system – saying "if I made an error that's what I did."
But Det. Sgt. Parish noticed in his investigation that while H&H significantly benefitted from errors, other septic companies like A-1 didn't.
"When we look at the error rate, because humans make errors, the error rate for A-1 was significantly lower than for H&H. And if you're going to continuously make errors, we just found it unusual that it was only one company that seemed to benefit from it."
The Oneida County District Attorney did not prosecute Steven Vick or Tim Kingman. Instead, a plea agreement was reached and H&H had to repay the city a little over four thousand dollars.
Mayor Chris Frederickson noted the large difference in the amount stolen and the amount re-paid at the Dec. 14 city council meeting.
"Restitution was paid to the city by H&H septic in the amount $4,132," said Mayor Frederickson. "The only reason I bring that up is the police record also has a different amount of loss during that time. And the amount of loss during that time was $31,402.02."
(The actual approximate amount is $31,440.02.)
That means H&H kept approximately $27,000 that it stole from the city.
The city of Rhinelander fired Kingman in 2019. He was accused of creating a hostile work environment for employees of the Public Works Department. He later filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, which is still pending.
Steven Vick has received 5 citations from the DNR this month. They are unrelated to this investigation.