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Berkeley Co. health board to review work of man facing charges

December 19, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Health Department's board voted Monday to review the work of a sanitarian who was charged earlier this month with bribery in official and political matters and extortion and since has been terminated for violation of agency policies, not the alleged criminal activity.

A few hours after the unanimous decision by the Board of Health, the Berkeley County Planning Commission voted to table their review of a developer's preliminary plat for the proposed Stone Mill subdivision in northern Berkeley County because at least part of the project was inspected by the former sanitarian, Steven John Alenskis, of Charles Town, W.Va.

Alenskis, 44, allegedly charged a contractor $20 per perk hole - a pre-septic system installation test to measure absorption of water in soil at building sites - for a guarantee of passing the necessary inspections.

County Health Officer Diana Gaviria told the commission that she and sanitarian staff were directed to review Alenskis' work on projects where preliminary plat approval was pending.

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It wasn't clear how many projects would needed to be reviewed or how long it would take, but the Planning Commission voted to table the Stone Mill project, a 25 single family home development at the intersection of Swan Pond Road and Rocky Marsh Run, for 60 days.

"Our problem is how many were evaluated right and how many were evaluated wrong," Board of Health chairman John Miller said in the Health Department board meeting.

"...Some developers do things right and we don't want to penalize them," Miller said.

Miller said Health Department officials were "shocked" by the allegations and was clearly alarmed at the possibility that an inspection was wrongly passed for money.

"It's a most unfortunate situation," Miller said, adding the health department was doing their best to rectify the situation.

Gaviria said regional public health sanitarian Richard Wheeler of the state Bureau of Public Health had been contacted about the alleged wrongdoing, which was investigated by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

In October, deputies provided a contractor with $300 in cash to "give to Alenskis," who was to inspect 15 perk holes at a subdivision off Buck Hill Road near the community of Gerrardstown, W.Va., according to a police complaint.

"After receiving the money, Alenskis commented that the money would buy his family some food," police had said.

At one point during the inspections, Alenskis returned the money to the contractor, stating he did not want to hurt that person, police alleged. The contractor told police he thought Alenskis returned the money because he saw the recorder taping the conversation in his pocket, police said.

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