Judge Fines Demolition Contractor $30 Million Over East Cleveland Dump
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The demolition contractor who operated a construction debris dump in East Cleveland must pay more than $30 million in fines and leave the industry permanently, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge ruled this week In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Shannon Gallagher wrote that George Michael Riley Sr. showed “blatant recalcitrance” and defied state law “at every step of the way.”
The Ohio EPA shut down the dump, known as Arco Recycling, in early 2017 and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office sued Riley and a business partner. “Riley’s deliberate indifference to the law diminished the quality of life for his East Cleveland neighbors and jeopardized their health and well-being,” Gallagher wrote.
Gallagher imposed the fines on Riley and RCI Services, a demolition company he owned. The penalties include repaying the state for $9.1 million in cleanup costs. “The imposed civil penalties against Riley and RCI reflect the extreme risk of harm to public health and the environment, their blatant recalcitrance to the law, the enormous economic benefit they enjoyed from violating the law, and the State’s substantial extraordinary enforcement costs in this case,” Gallagher wrote.
The state accused Riley of presenting Arco as a recycling facility for demolition debris, when in fact little material was recycled. Instead, it was a pile of debris grew higher and higher next to homes on Noble Road. “This guy claimed to be a recycler, hoping a loophole would stop us from delivering justice for the people of East Cleveland,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in an emailed statement. “News flash: Justice delivered. Now, pay up.”
Riley was also involved with demolition companies that collected public money to raze abandoned homes in the Cleveland area, a 2019 Ideastream Public Media investigation found. The companies carted rubble from many of those demolitions to Riley’s Arco site. The arrangement allowed Riley to avoid paying dump disposal fees he would have been charged at other facilities, Gallagher wrote.
At trial, Riley’s attorneys argued his business partner and former girlfriend, Christina Beynon, should bear responsibility for the dump. She was left to run the operation after she and Riley broke up and she sought a protective order against him in 2016, according to trial testimony.
Beynon reached a settlement with the state last year and testified against Riley. She told the court that Riley had her put the company in her name, even though Riley ran the facility.