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DESPITE SENTENCING, AURORA GARAGE SCANDAL FAR FROM OVER
EX-HIGHWAY CHIEF GETS
THREE YEARS OF PROBATION

So far, one of the biggest investigations into Erie County mismanagement has led to nothing more than probation and fines against one former employee.

But the Aurora garage saga is far from over.

Former county highway supervisor Douglas H. Naylon was sentenced Monday to probation and fines in the high-profile case alleging abuses of payroll, purchasing and personnel in Erie County's Aurora Highway District in 2001 and 2002.

But at least four other civil lawsuits related to the Aurora garage are pending in federal court. Naylon has also taken administrative legal action against Public Works Commissioner Maria Lehman on hostile work environment charges.

The county's Personnel Department is still battling workers' compensation claims by Naylon and his former general crew chief, Patrick Kennedy.

Finally, another former Aurora garage employee, Daniel M. Sutton, is expected to go to trial Feb. 7 on a number of low-level felony and misdemeanor charges on allegations that he stole and resold expensive, county-owned tires used on heavy equipment.

All these cases amount to a heavy burden on taxpayers. Tens of thousands of dollars have already been spent by five investigating bodies that have looked into Highway Division abuses.

Naylon, a key figure in the investigations, pleaded guilty in August to two misdemeanors for the unauthorized use of a county tractor-trailer on his private property.

Though various investigations have indicated that Naylon violated numerous county policies through wasteful practices and inappropriate personnel decisions, the district attorney's office was unable to show that Naylon's actions rose to the level of felony crime.

Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia sentenced Naylon to three years' probation. Naylon also will be required to pay $2,870 in fines, restitution and fees.

During sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Mark Sacha repeatedly referred to a lengthy presentencing report from the Probation Department that recommended a tougher sentence for Naylon. The report referred to grand jury findings that burnished Naylon's image as a bully who violated county policies and hurt employees who didn't go along.

Naylon should face jail time, Sacha said, because of his "greed, arrogance and lack of remorse."

But defense lawyer Paul Cambria rebutted Sacha's characterizations and criticized the presentencing report for containing grand jury findings that have not been subjected to trial or arbitration.

"Grand jury testimony is not proof of anything," Cambria said.

In court, Naylon expressed regret that he caused his family "embarrassment and grief" and asked that he be given a chance to start over.

"I have paid the ultimate price to my family, my friends and my co-workers," he said.

He later added that under his leadership, the Aurora garage had gotten more county projects done than had been completed in the past 20 years. He also said he had been victimized by "political turf wars" and by some county employees who didn't want to adhere to the county's high standards.

Naylon's family members, many who were present in court, expressed relief at the verdict.

Family members of individuals who worked under Naylon, however, were angered and disappointed that Naylon wasn't sent to jail. Confrontations erupted outside the courtroom.

"He's been shown a lot more mercy than my husband's been shown," said Gale Wrobel, whose husband, Timothy, was transferred under disciplinary measures by Naylon.

Timothy Wrobel and former Aurora garage employee Paul Rebrovich have both filed suit against the county, Naylon and other current and former county officials for civil rights violations.

Two former Aurora garage employees allied with Naylon, Kennedy and Frank A. Catalano III, also are suing the county over alleged civil rights violations.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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