BY JIM DOOLEY – The driver of a massive city sewage tanker truck was using and selling crystal methamphetamine while on the public payroll and even stayed on the job for seven months after he was charged with federal drug trafficking offenses last year, according to court records and interviews.
City officials said they didn’t know that driver Patrick L.K. Vega Jr. was arrested in a federal drug trafficking case in September 2011 and indicted less than a month later.
“We were not aware that he was indicted,” said Tim Houghton, executive assistant in the city Department of Environmental Services.
But one of Vega’s fellow workers, driver Kenneth Mersbugh, said he and others repeatedly complained to managers about Vega’s drug activities before and after he was arrested.
Vega’s job was hauling 7,000-gallon loads of sewage on the narrow, heavily-travelled roads of Windward Oahu: two round trips daily between Kailua and Kahuku and one round trip between Kailua and Waimanalo.
Mersburgh said Vega’s drug use and legal problems were widely known at the Kailua Waste Water Treatment Plant, their base of operations.
Vega even showed co-workers the GPS monitoring device federal officials required him to wear strapped around his ankle after he made bail.
“He was kind of proud of it,” said Mersburgh.
Mersburgh said he complained to supervisors, to the office of Environmental Services Department Director Timothy Steinberger and even to the Mayor’s office about Vega staying on the city payroll but nothing was done.
“They never did anything before he was arrested and then they let him come back to work after he was arrested,” Mersburgh asserted.
Houghton said he could not comment on Mersburgh’s statements because they “involve on-going personnel matters.”
Houghton said Vega was “subject to random drug/alcohol testing as a Heavy Truck Driver II during his employment” but did not reveal if Vega was ever actually drug-tested.
Vega kept driving for the city after he posted bail in the federal drug case in October 2011 and after he admitted new use of crystal meth to federal authorities in the following month, records show.
His bail was revoked in May after he again violated the terms of his court-supervised release and he has been locked up in the Federal Detention Center since then.
Vega pleaded guilty in January and is now scheduled for sentencing in December.
Vega resigned from his city job July 5, 2012, according to Houghton.
Hawaii Reporter learned that another employee at the Kailua plant, Paul Boisjolie, was on state court probation for a drug-related theft offense from 2004-2011 and repeatedly violated the terms of his probation by committing new crimes and testing positive for illegal drug use.
The city took no action against Boisjolie until last year when he was terminated for “abuse of sick leave,” said Houghton.
“We were not aware of Mr. Boisjolie’s probation status nor the alleged repeated positive tests for use of illegal drugs that may have occurred during any such probation period,” Houghton said.
In a new criminal case brought two months ago, Boisjolie was charged with promotion of crystal methamphetamine and morphine and is now awaiting trial for those alleged offenses.
Mersburgh, 60, a 26-year city worker with a history of blowing the whistle on illegal and improper activities at the Kailua plant, said he Boisjolie’s drug use was well-known bosses and rank and file workers at Kailua.
In fact, Mersburgh said, his bosses used “false allegations” from Boisjolie as the basis for placing Mersburgh on leave-with-pay for one year.
Mersburgh returned to work after Boisjolie recanted his allegations, according to Mersburgh.
Now, Mersburgh alleges, he is being threatened with demotion or termination in part because city officials say he couldn’t get along with Vega.
“How could I get along with him? He was high on drugs on the job. His behavior was bizarre and erratic,” Mersburgh said.
According to federal court records, Vega sold a Drug Enforcement Administration confidential source 107 grams (nearly four ounces) of crystal methamphetamine in August of last year.
Police and federal agents then found more than a half-pound of the drug in a search of his car September 28, according to the DEA.
An indictment returned October 13, 2011 accused Vega of conspiring with two other men, Patrick Kanohokula and Russell Chee, to possess and distribute crystal methamphetamine.
Kanohokula, who’s also known as Kojack, allegedly hid more than half a pound of meth in a child’s car seat, where it was recovered by DEA agents, according to court records.