Plympton Health Agent Robert C. Tinkham, Jr., of Carver, and two other defendants are being sued by the Carver, Marion, and Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District for fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy, among several other complaints.
The lawsuit alleges the misconduct occurred during Tinkham’s tenure as Carver’s liaison to, and chairman of the committee that oversees the district, while working as the Carver Health Agent.
The one-time Fairhaven physical education teacher and public health professional denies the allegations.
The lawsuit, filed in Plymouth Superior Court June 22, 2018, alleges that Tinkham, along with co-defendants Ray E. Pickles, who is the elected Marion town clerk and the Town of Gosnold town administrator, and his wife, Diane Bondi-Pickles, a licensed real estate agent, conspired to defraud the CMWRRDD, established in 1973, of $838,458.22 over a five-year period (some court documents alternately refer to an eight-year period).
Tinkham is accused personally of converting $262,000 of public funds for personal use.
The misconduct is alleged to have been committed through payments made from the CMWRRDD to corporations controlled by the defendants, Moss Hollow Management Corp., a mainly one-person consultancy firm owned by Pickles and Bondi-Pickles, and 33-35 Wareham LLC, under the control of Tinkham and his wife.
The lawsuit states that the mishandling of the district’s money was discovered in 2017 after Pickles, at the time the chairman of the committee overseeing the CMWRRDD, demanded assessments be paid to the waste district from the three member towns for the first time since 2015.
When Carver and Wareham refused to pay their dues because of a lack of proper documentation and the surprise bills, Pickles sued for breach of contract. This prompted an estimated $25,000 forensic audit by the three towns in the waste district into the CMWRRDD’s finances, which is still ongoing and can be used in court as evidence. Unlike a usual audit, a forensic audit examines every transaction of the waste district.
That investigation revealed the extent of the conspiracy to include Pickles; Pickles’ wife, Bondi-Pickles; and Tinkham.
Pickles was fired Jan. 29, 2018, from the waste district.
Tinkham retired from the Town of Carver July 1, 2016, but is an hourly employee of the Town of Plympton, making $39.21 per hour per inspection, according to public records and the Treasurer/Collector’s Office.
He was hired by the Plympton Board of Health as health agent at a meeting January 9, 2018.
A health agent is generally responsible for, among other duties, Title V septic inspections, septic plan approvals, percolation tests, food inspections, housing inspections, landfill inspections and other permits.
Tinkham lists managing the yearly budget as part of his duties as health agent in Carver and at his former job at the CMWRRDD.
Tinkham is also the current Title V inspector in Plymouth, according to his resume and the Town of Plymouth. He obtained that job after retiring from Carver.
He receives a $2,124.88 monthly pension from the Plymouth County Retirement Board and had about $20,000 in checking and savings accounts at Mutual Bank according to court filings in June. An affidavit states that he has no bank accounts outside of Massachusetts. He claims his corporation owns a campground with a parcel of property worth approximately $2,000,000.
Tinkham is seeking to have the suit dismissed. He is being represented by Attorney John Fink of Brockton, according to the docket. Pickles and Bondi-Pickles are seeking to move forward with a jury trial, according to filings.
The CMWRRDD is seeking triple-damages, interest, costs and lawyers’ fees. Assets of these three defendants were originally frozen by court order pending the outcome of the lawsuit, although the defendants successfully argued for access to their bank accounts and pensions.
The Plymouth County Retirement Board, Eastern Bank and Mutual Bank were all named as “reach and apply” defendants in the lawsuit but were removed from the litigation.
The case is moving quickly through the court system, with several hearings and 35 docket entries to date in just a few weeks.
Plympton Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy, reached via email, directed questions to the Board of Health, noting that “the Board of Health is an elected Board, and as such, does not come under the purview of the Board of Selectmen and/or Town Administrator.”
A source who did not wish to be quoted stated that the town became aware of the allegations only after the hiring process, in late June when Wareham and Marion media began coverage of the lawsuit. Another source stated that they had personally made town officials aware of the allegations.
It’s not clear at this time who at Town House was aware of the allegations prior to Tinkham’s appointment. Tinkham does not list any references on his resume, although he lists his previous jobs with Plymouth, Carver and the CMWRRDD.
A call to the Plympton Board of Health went unanswered as did a call to Tinkham’s cellphone.
The Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General is investigating according to documents in the court file, although a spokesman for the OIG would not confirm or deny the existence of any specific investigation.
The OIG is not a prosecutorial agency but can refer investigations to the Attorney General or the federal government, among other agencies, for prosecution, according to the spokesman.
The court is awaiting Tinkham’s attorney to file a motion to dismiss in order to schedule the next hearing in the case.