Nearly two years after a Warwick detective caught DPW employee Kenneth Naylor leaving the Department of Public Works at 925 Sandy Lane with city-owned materials, Judge Walter Stone has granted Naylor’s motion to dismiss felony larceny charges.
On May 21, Stone ruled Naylor “did not intend to permanently deprive the Department of the items taken, but was rather operating under an established past practice whereby employees of the Department were allowed to borrow equipment for their personal use,” coupled with the fact that the state failed to “establish probable cause” for the alleged crime, which occurred Sept. 28, 2011.
On that day, Detective Shaun Turcotte, who was tracking Naylor after a resident tipped Warwick Police that suspicious activity was taking place at DPW, observed Naylor key in a security code and enter the city yard after hours at 8 p.m. Naylor exited shortly after with equipment not previously in the flatbed of his pickup tuck, including a chain saw and other tools, two trash receptacles, a variety of rags, assorted cast iron piping and plumbing parts, and a five-gallon gas can filled to capacity.
The goods were valued at $2,000, with $741 worth of piping and gasoline.
According to police records and court documents, Naylor, who has a history of shoplifting and trespassing charges, admitted he planned to use the goods to tidy his yard, fix his deck, clean his truck and make repairs at a neighbor’s house. He said he was picking up materials at night because he would not be able to the next day, as he intended to call out sick.
Naylor also said he had not sought his supervisor’s permission to use the noted materials.
While Turcotte stated that Naylor’s story didn’t add up, as gas and pipes are items that cannot be returned after being used, two retired DPW workers recently testified that it was “common practice” for employees to “borrow” material and equipment for personal use.
Michael Cook, who worked for the Department for 28 years, said that an unwritten borrowing policy based on “the honor system” existed through the course of his employment. He also said employees were not obligated to ask their supervisors for permission.
Another former DPW employee, Michael Weber, shared information that conflicts with Cook’s testimony. In a statement submitted on Sept. 30, 2011, Weber said items needed to be signed out and accounted for.
Court documents also list Weber as saying that the items Naylor had in his possession were items that employees “would not ordinarily have permission to take or use personally, such as the cast iron piping” Naylor was planning to use to prop up his deck when making repairs.
Acting DPW Director David Picozzi confirmed that employees were allowed to borrow equipment with permission. However, he also said that was not the case with this particular incident.
In Oct. 2011, “Picozzi filed a complaint statement with the Warwick Police Department requesting that [Naylor] be prosecuted for his actions,” a court document reads. “The statement filed by Mr. Picozzi indicated that although [Naylor] either personally owned or was permitted to borrow many of the items seized from his truck, there were items that [he] could not have borrowed even if he had requested permission. This statement concluded that [Naylor] had wrongfully taken the gasoline and the cast iron piping.”
Shortly after, an agreement was reached with the union to suspend Naylor for 20 days, plus two hours from Sept. 29, without pay. But Mayor Scott Avedisian disagreed with the disciplinary action, and the city then terminated Naylor following an internal review of the allegations. Less than a month after Turcotte pulled him over, charges were brought on Naylor and he was fired.
As the Beacon reported in August, arbitrator Sharon Henderson Ellis said the city should not have fired Naylor because the city and union had reached an agreement to suspend him. As a result, Naylor was re-hired with all back pay and benefits through arbitration. He is currently a staff member of DPW.
In an e-mail, the mayor’s chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, said that while Naylor returned to work in Aug. 2012, he does not have a pass card that grants access to the gate where tools and other materials are stored. He also said the borrowing policy was rescinded in the fall of 2011.
Further, he said, “as with any other prosecution, the Naylor case went through the judicial system and the outcome has been determined by the Court. Beyond that, the City has no further comment on the disposition of the case.”
The Sept. 28 incident was not the first time Naylor has interacted with police on theft charges. In June of 2005, he was arrested at a local retailer while in the act of shoplifting tools. He was processed and issued a summons to appear.
In Sept. of 2005, Naylor was arrested again for shoplifting tools at another local retailer. During that arrest, an NCIC check revealed that Naylor had an existing warrant on him for failure to appear on the June shoplifting charge.
Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for the Attorney General, said in an e-mail that the state disagrees with the May 21 ruling and was ready to prove Naylor committed felony larceny.
“The state objected to the defendant’s motion to dismiss, however, the judge granted the motion,” Kempe said. “The state was prepared to move forward with the case and prove the facts at trial.”
Naylor was contacted for comment but didn’t respond in time for print.