Two Get Probation in Exchange for Testimony

Executives testify in corruption scandal involving construction contracts in Palm Beach.

A pair of high-level executives at Dee Griffin Earthworks were sentenced to two years of probation Monday in exchange for their testimony in a corruption scandal involving construction contracts in the town of Palm Beach.

Janis Griffin and Stephen McDonald were arrested in April 2010 on dozens of charges of bribery of a public official, accused of giving kickbacks to Palm Beach's longtime construction manager, Steven M. White, so White would pick their company for repair projects.

As part of their plea agreements, Griffin, the company's director, and McDonald, its vice president, were both allowed to plead guilty Monday morning to a single third-degree felony count of attempted unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior. In return, they will have to testify against White in his corruption trial.

White was arrested a week before Griffin and McDonald. Prosecutors at the time said White personally received nearly $250,000 from construction companies doing business with the town.

Two companies, Dee Griffin Earthworks and Chaz Equipment Co., made nearly $5 million in payments from construction work between January 2008 and March 2010, according to prosecutors. Police say White, who allegedly received $113,000 in cash and checks from Dee Griffin Earthworks alone, said McDonald was the one who gave him the cash and checks, but Griffin signed the checks and was aware of the payoffs.

The arrests, which came after a five-month investigation into public corruption in the town, also led to the arrest of Chaz Equipment owner Gary Czajkowski.

Further digging into Czajkowski's business dealings led prosecutors last month to arrest five Chaz employees and eight municipal workers on 77 charges including racketeering, money laundering and unlawful compensation. Those arrests included current and former West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County officials, caught as part of a corruption sting prosecutors and investigators named "Operation Dirty Water."

A jury last month convicted Robert Howard Wight, a vice president at Chaz Equipment, on a single charge of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior. The same jury acquitted Wight of the more serious charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.

Circuit Judge Edward Fine sentenced Wight to two years of probation last week.

Other defendants in that case, including Czajkowski, are awaiting trial.

Had Griffin and McDonald not taken pleas, they would have stood trial with White, who was the town of Palm Beach's construction manager. White's trial is currently set for Oct. 11.

~ daphne_duret@pbpost.com


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