Watershed employees arrested on theft charges

Two Atlanta Department of Watershed Management employees were arrested and charged with theft Monday, the city agency has confirmed.

According to a Watershed spokesman, police accuse Charles Edwards of visiting recycling centers — not pawn shops, as previously communicated — to sell $61,645 worth of Watershed equipment between 2008 and 2015. William Spalding was also arrested and charged with selling 29 items worth $3,430 to local pawn shops between 2008 and 2014.

The men were arrested Monday afternoon at Watershed’s pipeyard maintenance and storage facility on Peyton Road. According to the Atlanta Police Department, each has been charged with theft by taking.

The department has come under intense scrutiny in recent years after city leaders discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing or stolen equipment. The items include 28 industrial water meters weighing 700 pounds and worth $5,210 apiece, copper, pipes and more, according to police reports. City officials also have yet to find a missing backhoe worth $80,000.

“The arrest of these individuals is the result of a continued, coordinated commitment toward the eradication of theft impacting the Department of Watershed Management. In addition to more security enhancements to tighten inventory protocol, we are sending a serious message that the administration is committed to protecting the city’s property,” Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina said in a statement released this afternoon. “Stewardship of resources provided by our ratepayers is and will always be a top priority.”

Macrina said she expects additional arrests as the department roots out corruption. The men are not believed to be connected with the disappearance of the industrial water meters, nor the backhoe.

The arrests are the latest chapter in Watershed’s troubled history.

City auditor Leslie Ward released a scathing report of the department’s inventory management practices last fall, an audit that found Watershed couldn’t account for more than 10,000 missing water meters. Ward’s office also found lax security at several Watershed facilities, including keys left in locks.

In response, Macrina said the bulk of the missing meters went unaccounted for between 2006 and 2009, long before Mayor Kasim Reed took office.

Macrina said the department has worked to turn around its image by tightening up its security measures.

Last summer, more than a dozen employees were fired after an investigation by the city’s legal department into reports of mismanagement, but none was charged with wrongdoing.

For updates, return to AJC.com.

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