Over 120 people have visited the hospital following a spill of MCHM, a chemical used in the coal industry. The substance, which leaked from a tank at a Freedom Industries facility, has caused the water in nine West Virginia counties to be unfit for consumption — or anything but “flushing,” according to officials. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a state of emergency in the area, prompting residents to empty stores of water.
The company’s president, Gary Southern, made it very clear the day of the spill that as an almighty job creator he has no interest in the effect the company has had on the peasantry. His sentiments were echoed by the CEO’s girlfriend, who feels that the spill has not harmed a single person — including those who have gone to the hospital. After all, she says that she took a shower and brushed her teeth and is still alive — but has somehow forgotten that no one is claiming the chemical is deadly.
While not unexpected from any company with ties to the Koch brothers (especially one exempt from many EPA regulations), the uncaring nature of those responsible for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people is disturbing, to say the least. Yet another executive has been revealed to be of questionable character, as well.
One of the founders of Freedom Industries, Carl Lemley Kennedy II, is a two-time convicted felon — but that’s not the only interesting thing surrounding his involvement with the company! Freedom Industries’ web site says the company was founded in 1986, but it was actually founded in 1992, according to filings with the WV Secretary of State.
Kennedy is surrounded by controversy. He filed bankruptcy in 2005 after he was charged with tax evasion and willful failure to pay employee withholding to the government. Between 2000 and 2003, while acting as accountant for Freedom Industries, Poca Blending, and New River Chemical Co, he withheld over $1 million from employee checks that was never paid to the government, and owed more than $200,000 in taxes. He pleaded guilty to both charges in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia, according to the WV Gazette.
“Carl L. Kennedy II took steps to conceal a large portion of his income from the Internal Revenue Service by, among other things, using his position as an accountant to ensure a W2 form was not filed in his name,” the court document reads, “using corporate funds for his personal benefit and writing corporate checks to cash for his personal enrichment.”
Kennedy was sentenced to more than three years in prison, but his sentence was cut almost in half after he made some controlled cocaine buys for police while wearing a wire. What’s this about cocaine, you ask?
This brings us to the “other” felony. In 1987, Kennedy pleaded guilty to selling 10-12 ounces of cocaine. This sale was connected to a scandal that brought down former Charleston Mayor Mike Roark.
Kennedy is currently listed as “incorporator” with the Secretary of State, but Freedom Industries told the WV Gazette on Friday that he “left the company years ago.” However, in 2006 he told a court during bankruptcy proceedings that he owned portions of New River Chemical Co, Poca Blending, and Etowah River Terminal–which coincidentally are the three companies with which Freedom merged just weeks ago. As recently as 2005, Kennedy still owned a five percent stake in Freedom Industries, as well.
With folks like this running the company, we wonder if the people they have harmed will ever be compensated for their suffering.