A police investigation revealed about $31,440.02 was stolen by a septic company from the city of Rhinelander over the past six years—and a city employee let it happen.

Detective Sergeant Kyle Parish with the Rhinelander Police Department was first alerted to possible theft in the spring of 2019.

According to a police investigation, a treatment plant employee 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 sometime not logging anything at all, and incorrectly logging “holding tank” instead of “septage,” which costs significantly less money to H&H.

A holding tank is mostly water, so it doesn’t require much treatment by the plant. It cost $14.50 per 1,000 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 is cost more to drop off, at $60 per 1,000 gallons, a $45.50 difference.

“When you’re dumping thousands and thousands of gallons a day, it doesn’t take long to add up,” said Parish.

Police say all of this was made possible by Rhinelander Public Works Director 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 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 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 Parish noticed in his investigation that while H&H significantly benefited from errors, other septic companies like A-1 didn’t.

The Oneida County District Attorney did not prosecute Vick or Kingman. Instead, a plea agreement was reached.

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