CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Danny Jones was one of the most visibly angered over the January 2014 chemical spill in Charleston. The water crises which followed caused the entire city to go into a spin and in Jones’ mind left an unshakable reputation for West Virginia’s Capital City.
“The damage they did to this community is incalculable and will last for the rest of our lives,” said Jones in an appearance on MetroNews Talkline.
Freedom Industries President Gary Southern admitted to three federal charges which stemmed from the spill and water emergency. The incident left 300,000 people in a nine-county region without water for nearly two weeks. Under the terms, Southern will face 30 days to three years in prison and a fine of up to $300,000.
He got off easy according to Jones.
“Somebody does that kind of damage to this community ought to have to plead guilty to a felony,” said Jones. “I know a lot of people who have done a whole lot less in the last 40 years and are going to the ‘hoosegow’ for a one count felony.”
Federal Prosecutor Booth Goodwin said the plea agreement was the best he believed they could do to make certain it was a deterrent against a similar incident happening again in West Virginia or elsewhere in the country. Jones wasn’t so sure it would even prevent Southern and other Freedom Industries executives from doing the same thing again.
“It means he can go out and get bonded again and he can drive his Bentley to go get bonded again,” said Jones. “I don’t think the punishment is commiserate with the crime.”
The Mayor said he didn’t want to cast doubt on Goodwin’s work. He said Goodwin did what he could, but the Mayor believes the Freedom management team was callous and reckless with a dangerous situation and probably will be again somewhere else.
“They don’t care about this community or they wouldn’t have set up an operation like that. They don’t care,” he said. “Since they only have misdemeanors, they’ll go out and set up somewhere else. You’ll find this tank farm in some other place.”