[Update: The Sandy Springs solicitor released a statement Tuesday:
There are times when taking a step back provides the opportunity for better perspective. In retrospect, the actions of the court with regards to Mr. McGill's sentence for violating the city's noise laws, was disproportionate to a first-time offense. As such, the court has amended its sentence to time served and further probation suspended. City ordinances are implemented for the protection of quality of life within a community. The adherence to these laws is important, and the City is obligated to enforce these laws, which includes imposing sanctions against those individuals who break the law.
The original story continues below.]
If he keeps his nose clean, sanitation worker Kevin McGill of Sandy Springs, Ga., might just make it through his 30-day sentence (to be served on consecutive weekends) for disturbing wealthy residents by picking up the trash too early in the morning – just in time to celebrate National Garbage Man Day – June 17.
Mr. McGill, a new employee of a company contracted to do sanitation work in Sandy Springs, was cited for picking up trash just after 5 a.m. one morning, according to WSB-TV.
A city ordinance limits trash pickup to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in order to allow the wealthy suburbans there to sleep peacefully.
One of the fundamental questions raised by this case is whether an employee or the employer should be punished for a violation of the law. Typically, prosecutors go after the company.
But Sandy Springs prosecutor Bill Riley told local media that he’s tried citing companies with little result and so has chosen to go after the individual employees instead. “Fines don't seem to work,” Riley said, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. "The only thing that seems to stop the activity is actually going to jail.”
Mr. Riley sought the maximum punishment of 30 days in jail – and the judge agreed. This is the second sanitation worker he has prosecuted for the same infraction.
Neither Mr. Riley nor the city spokesperson returned requests for comment.
“This is ridiculous!!!!. I guess the US postal mail carriers need not get ready for jail time too,” wrote John Arwood, founder of National Garbageman Day, second generation garbage man, and CEO of Arwood Waste on his Facebook page.
Kyle Brown also responded via Facebook, “As a garbage man my self I think this is stupid and for the DA to call garbage men a nusence was just wrong how bout we go on strike and then see how he feels about sanitation workers just imagine take one city and stop all garbage collection for 30 days.”
Angela Piccinonna also responded to the Facebook post writing, “This is an atrocity. We own a garbage company in Miami and yes there are absolutely time restrictions, HOWEVER, we, the company, get those exorbitant fines should our company not follow the rules. If a driver is costing the company fines, we address it - the answer is not to JAIL the employee. As Americans, we should all find this unacceptable, whether in the trash industry or not, the government has ZERO right to jail you when you didn't commit a crime. Where is the Washington outrage on this? We have national coverage on other issues, but a man simply doing his job and getting put in jail over a time restriction is ok? I really hope this story goes national.”
While other upscale residential area have noise ordinances aimed at letting people get some shuteye in the pre-dawn hours, even Fairfax County in Va, nationally known for having wealthy, high-profile residents, isn't bringing the trash man to trial for waking the neighborhood.
Robert Scott has been with the Fairfax County, Va., Solid Waste Management Program for 32 years and says in an interview, “Here in Fairfax County we have Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court justices in some pretty upscale residential areas and they don’t have a problem with us picking up at six a.m.”
Asked if the county would prosecute a sanitation worker for making a pickup prior to posted pickup times and disturbing the residents Mr. Scott says it would be more in line with his county’s practices to hold the company accountable, not the individual driver. “I am shocked by hearing of this story,” he says. “We would hold the hauler accountable and even then they’d likely get a warning. We wouldn’t go after the driver.”
Director of Customer Service at the Fairfax offices, Josie Raimey says in an interview, “We have a noise ordinance that prevents trucks and other noise prior to 6 a.m., but I’ve never heard of a company not backing their driver. I’m surprised the company employing him didn’t step up to his defense.”
Scott explains that the noise ordinance in Fairfax applies to any delivery truck including FedEx, UPS or trash.
“Man, this is something,” he says. “I’m going to have to get a copy of that story and bring it up with my staff at our next meeting so they can see how far some people are willing to go.”