CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A federal court ruled a disgruntled former Camp Pendleton worker defrauded the Marine Corps for hazardous-duty pay after convincing military officials that treated sewer water is poisonous.
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which arbitrates disputes between civil servants and federal supervisors, ruled in September that in 2014 that then-Recycled Water Manager Scott Stanford filed four false attendance slips claiming $1,600 in extra pay after getting doused by what he said were hazardous chemicals, the San Diego Union Tribune reported Sunday.
But Stanford insists in an interview with the newspaper that splashes of the water irritated his eyes, nose and throat.
Judges from the Washington, D.C.-based appellate court noted in their ruling that Stanford's bogus claims "eroded the agency's trust and confidence in his ability to serve as a Recycled Water Manager and placed the safety and integrity of Camp Pendleton's Water Resource Division into question."
Last year, base leaders gave Stanford a last chance to spare his job in exchange for admitting guilt for the purported fraud. He refused, and they fired him.
Stanford, who worked at the base for 37 years, said he couldn't bring himself to strike a deal when he never intentionally did anything wrong. He alleged that his termination was retaliation for requesting more staff to help fix irrigation pipes and because the Marines wanted to replace him with a crony.
But the judges weren't swayed by his assertions. They ruled that Stanford hoodwinked his senior commander, base Facilities Maintenance Officer Lt. Col. Jose Lopez, because the Marine was new to the job and trusted Stanford and his immediate supervisor.
Officials have contended for a decade that the water is safe for irrigation even though signs warning people to never drink recycled water pepper the 125,000-acre base.
Stanford, 55, says he's mulling whether to file an appeal before the deadline on Tuesday.