On Oct. 13, a federal jury in Madison, Wis., convicted two current and former Didion Milling officials of workplace safety, environmental, fraud, and obstruction of justice charges following a deadly explosion in 2017 that killed five workers and seriously injured others at a corn mill the company operated in Cambria, Wisc.
Didion Milling Vice President of Operations Derrick Clark was convicted of conspiring to falsify documents, making false Clean Air Act compliance certifications as Didion’s “responsible official,” and obstructing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) investigation of the explosion at the corn mill by making false and misleading statements during a deposition.
Former Didion Milling Food Safety Superintendent Shawn Mesner was convicted of participating in a fraud conspiracy against Didion Milling’s customers and conspiring to obstruct and mislead OSHA for his role in falsifying sanitation records used at Didion to track the completion of cleanings designed to remove accumulations of corn dust at the mill.
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“Managers and officers who enable corporate cultures that tolerate, encourage, or cover up violations, and who participate in falsifying documents and obstructing agency investigations, will and must be held accountable in addition to the corporations,” says Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).
Didion Milling previously pleaded guilty to falsifying the cleaning logs and baghouse logs at the mill and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1,000,000 and restitution of $10.25 million to the victims of the 2017 explosion. Sentencing hearings for Clark and Mesner will be scheduled at a later date.