Parks employee who knew about thefts will return to work Feb. 3

Ashland Parks and Recreation Department technician Shane Peabody will be allowed to return to work on Feb. 3 after serving a three-week suspension with no pay, Parks Director Don Robertson said.

Peabody had been on paid administrative leave since December while police conducted an investigation into alleged thefts by his work partner, technician Harold Ross Straub.

Peabody knew about the alleged thefts by Straub but was not engaged in theft himself, Robertson said.

"Shane was very, very cooperative with the police department, and just prior to the investigation, he had approached a supervisor with concerns," Robertson said.

Police and parks managers began the investigation into alleged department thefts in October.

Straub was arrested in November and fired in December for allegedly stealing at least $2,000 in parks equipment and supplies and city of Ashland gas during the previous six months. He has said he was only borrowing items, and took city gas as compensation for using his personal truck for work.

On Dec. 27, a dozen parks workers sent a petition to the Parks Commission and department managers stating their support for Peabody and asking that he be reinstated.

The workers said Peabody had been in a "difficult position," and they said they applauded any efforts to improve communication between employees and managers when it comes to reporting problems.

Some former and current parks workers previously told the Daily Tidings and police they feared reprisals from accused workers if they reported their suspicions of unethical or illegal behavior.

Meanwhile, Robertson said on Monday that parks receptionist Becky Bianco is on leave with no pay as of last week, pending more investigation. She had been on paid administrative leave since being arrested on Jan. 4 for allegedly funneling $43,390 in parks funds into her personal financial accounts.

Bianco has said she did not commit the crimes, and is instead a victim of identity theft.

Robertson said all parks workers have been informed of new polices adopted this month by parks commissioners that any employee who steals public property, borrows public property or engages in other illegal activity on the job will be fired, and any employee who knows of such actions by another but doesn't report it to parks managers will be fired.

The policy is not retroactive, according to commissioners, so a worker will not be fired if he or she fails to report illegal activity from the past.

The Ashland Municipal Code bans public employees from borrowing public property that is not available to all.

Another worker, parks technician Steve Lawrence, resigned in December after police found about $200 worth of parks equipment at his home.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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