A dozen misdemeanor charges of improper asbestos handling were dropped Wednesday against two top Lawndale city officials, but the pair still will face trial Monday on five remaining counts.
South Bay Municipal Court Judge Deanna Myers ordered the charges dropped at a hearing before the start of trial for former City Manager James Arnold and Public Works Director James Sanders.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Patchett said the dismissals are not a significant blow to the prosecution because Arnold and Sanders still could be ordered to serve as much as a year in county jail and pay a $100,000 fine if convicted on the remaining counts. Patchett said the heart of the case remains--five charges that the pair improperly disposed of asbestos in violation of state law.
The charges stem from the June, 1989, demolition of three city-owned houses to make way for a park. Patchett contends the men were warned by other city workers that the buildings contained asbestos but took no steps to deal with the hazardous waste.
Instead, Sanders rented a bulldozer and knocked down the houses himself after he fired a contractor who asked for a time extension because electricity to the buildings had not been shut off.
Neighbors complained that clouds of dust floated over their homes during the five-day demolition. They later filed a formal complaint with the Air Quality Management District after they heard rumors that there had been asbestos in the buildings.