2005-09-02 / Front Page

$110K Of Call-A-Head Money Down City’s Toilet

Environmental Summonses, Theft Of Water At Issue
By Howard Schwach

The Call-A-Head Corporation, headquartered on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel has become a multi-million dollar business that supplies portable toilets throughout the area. The company’s slogan is “We are number one at picking up number two.”

City agencies, however, have a very different view of the company, owned by local resident and developer Charles Howard, Jr.

On Tuesday, December 16, 2003, city investigators from the Department of Investigation and Department of Environmental Protection raided the company’s headquarters at 304 Cross Bay Boulevard, looking for evidence that the portable toilet business was stealing water and polluting its surroundings.

At the time, Howard told The Wave that the raid was the latest in a series of run-ins with “aggressive” city and state agencies. He said that investigators scrambled to uncover a second, illegal water source.

“They couldn’t find it, because it doesn’t exist,” he told The Wave. “Why would a company of this size steal water that costs pennies,” he asked.

As a result of the raid, however, four summonses were issued to Howard and his business on April 30, 2003. The complaint alleged 19 causes of action concerning alleged violation of the Environmental Conservation Law and the Tidal Wetlands Act. The complaint alleged that Howard “conducted regulated activities in a regulated wetlands of its adjacent area without a permit and discharging untreated residual contents of portable toilets and wash-down fluids into wetlands and navigable waters,” according to documents obtained by The Wave.

A recent New York Times story revealed that on November 23 of last year, Howard signed an agreement with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The plea agreement took the form of an “Alford Plea,” an federal form of pleading in criminal court in which the defendant does not admit the act and asserts his innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty.

The plea, which also includes the alleged use of unmetered water from January of 1999 to January of 2003, and any larceny charges that could be brought as a result of that theft of water, brought Call-A-Head a $100,000 fine and restitution of $10,000 to the city for the water the company allegedly stole.

According to the signed agreement, the payment of the fine and the restitution “is not an admission of wrongdoing by Call-A-Head, but is being agreed upon to end the ongoing investigation.”

In addition to the fine and restitution, the company has to hire a private, independent monitor to check its property for compliance with the agreement up to five times each month. The independent monitor will check to insure that the company is “not using washing procedures which result in toilet water or residual toilet waste or cleansing agents to discharge into the protected wetlands or catch basins.”

The monitor will also check water usage to insure the city is being paid its fair share.

Howard told The Wave this week that the complaints about his business came from local residents who do not want to see him succeed in his development program in the community – which includes a new pharmacy, a medical center and a restaurant.

“Those families are trying to put me out of business because they are afraid of losing control of the community, afraid of change.”

He says that he signed the plea agreement without admitting guilt because his lawyer, Broad Channel resident Thomas “Butchie” Monaghan, advised him that “the investigation would never be closed” and that the city would constantly harass him.

“I just wanted everything to go away, to wipe it out and have it end right here,” he said.

He added that paying the money was a small price to get the city off his back.

“I want to make Broad Channel a vacation place,” he said. “Even if I fail, we’ll still have a new restaurant and things for the kids. I can’t lose.”

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