Business Integrity Commission Bans Sanitation Salvage Driver Who Killed 2 People, But Gives Company’s Politically Connected Owners a Pass

Scene of the crash that killed Leon Clark. Video still: News 12
Scene of the crash that killed Leon Clark. Video still: News 12

The city’s Business Integrity Commission finally responded to the deaths of two people at the hands of Sanitation Salvage. But rather than crack down on the carting company for its atrocious safety record, BIC disciplinary action was limited to a single employee — prompting advocates of industry reform to again call on the BIC to use its authority to hold Sanitation Salvage accountable.

The recent announcement that the BIC banned Sanitation Salvage driver Sean Spence from driving carting trucks comes three months after Commissioner Dan Brownell said the agency was probing the company’s practices, and would move to revoke its license to operate in the city if necessary.

The family that owns Sanitation Salvage is a major political player, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign coffers of city electeds.

Spence fatally struck Leon Clark in the Bronx while on the job last April. Witnesses said Spence was “going too fast,” though NYPD blamed Clark, a senior who walked with a cane, for the crash.

Following Clark’s death, ProPublica reported that five months earlier Spence had run over and killed off-the-books Sanitation Salvage worker Mouctar Diallo, also in the Bronx. At the time, Spence and another crew member told police that Diallo, 21, was a stranger who died trying to grab hold of the moving truck. Even after the cover-up was made public, NYPD and District Attorney Darcel Clark did nothing to hold Spence or Sanitation Salvage accountable.

Ditto the BIC — until this week. In a statement reported by the Daily News, Brownell said Spence “lacks the good character, honesty and integrity necessary to participate in the trade waste industry in New York City.”

That’s rich coming from an agency that oversees an industry known for endangering the public and its own employees by brazenly flouting safety regulations — private waste carters have killed 43 people in NYC since 2010 — while blaming its victims for their own deaths.

On Wednesday, Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of the watchdog group ALIGN, issued a statement on behalf of Transform Don’t Trash NYC. Echoing City Council members and safety advocates, Silva-Farrell urged the BIC to take all Sanitation Salvage trucks off city streets:

It has been nine months since the death of Mouctar Diallo and three months since the death of Leon Clarke, both at the hands of Sanitation Salvage. BIC’s decision to ban the driver who was behind the wheel is a step, but real accountability here lies with the company. Mouctar Diallo worked for Sanitation Salvage for over a year, but his death was covered up and the driver was allowed to keep driving until he ran over another New Yorker. Transform Don’t Trash NYC has called and will continue to call for the revocation of Sanitation Salvage’s license to operate in New York City. The Business Integrity Commission has the power to take this action and should do so immediately.

In May, Brownell said the BIC was “diligently investigating Sanitation Salvage and its practices.”

“If this investigation finds that Sanitation Salvage should no longer be operating on our streets,” Brownell told Streetsblog in a statement, “BIC can initiate the process to revoke the company’s license.”

The News reported that the BIC is “still auditing” Sanitation Salvage to determine if further action is warranted.

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