Examiner Media Exclusive
A longtime Town of Cortlandt employee and a Peekskill-based landscaping company are being investigated by federal and county authorities for an alleged scheme involving illegal dumping on town property and the submission of fraudulent invoices totaling more than $100,000 for work not performed.
“The only way this worked is because there was someone on the inside,” said Cortlandt Town Attorney Thomas Wood. “There was someone in management.”
At the center of the probe, which is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, is Robert Dyckman, 49, who was employed for 28 years in Cortlandt before submitting a letter of resignation on January 12, 2021 that was accepted by the Town Board.
His resignation as Assistant General Foreman in the Department of Environmental Service Highway Division, a position he held since July 2012, was effective as of October 22, 2019, which was about two months after town officials discovered suspicious activity had taken place on land behind the town’s salt dome at the end of Arlo Lane.
According to Wood, eyebrows were first raised when another employee was sifting through material that had been unloaded on the site at the end of August in 2019 and it appeared to be more than was anticipated. Surveillance video allegedly showed trucks from Griffin’s Landscaping Corporation, and other unmarked vehicles, entering the property and dumping building and other material from non-town contracted projects.
The video footage, according to Wood, also allegedly showed Dyckman being present when Griffin trucks were there. Wood said Dyckman would sometimes leave the gate to the site unlocked or arrive on weekends with his own vehicle to oversee the illegal activity.
Wood said town officials later discovered improperly billed invoices for repairs to approximately 100 catch basins throughout town that were submitted by Griffin’s and signed off by Dyckman. Most of the repairs, according to Wood, were not done.
At that point, Wood said Supervisor Linda Puglisi suggested turning the matter over to law enforcement since it seemed like criminal activity. Wood contacted the District Attorney’s Office, which then brought in the FBI and U.S. Attorney General.
Dyckman, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Verplanck Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners, was then suspended without pay. The Employee’s Union, AFSCME Council 66 Local 2343, filed a grievance with the town requesting that Dyckman be reinstated with back pay. In his resignation letter, Dyckman waived and renounced any claim to retiree health care benefits that he may have been eligible to receive.
Andrew C. Quinn, Dyckman’s attorney who notarized his resignation letter, declined to comment when reached last Thursday.
Wood said FBI forensic agents were in Cortlandt two weeks ago looking at catch basins. The coronavirus pandemic delayed the proceedings for months, but Wood said he expects an indictment and formal charges to be filed against Dyckman and Griffin’s Landscaping in the near future.
The town has filed a lawsuit against Griffin’s seeking what is projected to be as much as $1 million to clean up the site where the materials were dumped.
Stephen G. McCarthy, Jr., an attorney for Griffin’s Landscaping, issued a statement Thursday, ensuring his client’s cooperation in the ongoing probe.
“As one of the dozens of private contractors who have worked with the Town of Cortlandt to provide municipal services over the past five years, Griffin’s Landscaping Corporation has been part of an ongoing investigation, offering to provide full and complete assistance so that the town may successfully complete its investigation and resolve the matter fairly and completely,” McCarthy said.
Cortlandt Councilman Dr. Richard Becker said Monday the board was “surprised and shocked” by what allegedly occurred but is confident town officials have implemented safeguards to try to ensure such activity could not be repeated.
“As an employer you give employees a level of confidence and trust, but whenever an employee betrays that trust, you feel taken advantage of,” Becker said.
Wood and Becker said they will push to prosecute anyone found guilty of wrongdoing in the case to the fullest extent of the law.
“It’s a big deal,” Wood said.
Meanwhile, Dyckman is apparently facing more legal problems as he was arrested January 22 at his Verplanck home after State Police responded to a call of a domestic issue at about 3:55 a.m.
Reading from a police report, Wood said Dyckman was charged with one count of assault in the third degree with the intention of causing physical injury, two counts of criminal obstruction and one count of endangering incompetent. He was arraigned in Cortlandt Town Court and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
An earlier version of this story said the U.S. Attorney General’s Office was involved in the probe. The correct reference is the U.S. Attorney’s Office.