MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – A federal jury in Madison convicted current and former Didion Milling Inc. officials of workplace safety, environmental, fraud and obstruction of justice charges after the explosion in 2017 that killed five workers and seriously hurt a number of others, this according to the US Office of Public Affairs.
Among those convicted was Didion Milling Vice President of Operations Derrick Clark. Clark was convicted Friday, October 13, of conspiring to falsify documents, making false Clean Air Act compliance certifications and obstructing the investigation done by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following the explosion.
Shawn Mesner, former Didion Milling Food Safety Superintendent, was convicted of participating in a fraud conspiracy against Didion’s customers and conspiring to obstruct and mislead OSHA for his role in falsifying cleaning records used to track when cleaning to remove combustible corn dust at the mill was done.
“The convictions of Didion Milling senior managers sends a clear message that EPA and our law enforcement partners will investigate and prosecute companies that put profits above the health and safety of their workers,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
The jury also acquitted former Didion Milling environmental manager James Lenz of charges related to falsifying environmental records and conspiring to make false statements and obstruct agency proceedings.
Didion Milling Inc. previously pleaded guilty to federal charges of falsifying the cleaning logs and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1 million and restitution of $10.25 million to families of the five victims in the explosion.
The company also has agreed to a five-year “organizational probation” and must allow federal inspectors to visit the mill without advance notice up to twice a year. And back in August, Didion agreed to pay the Wisconsin Department of Justice $940,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging multiple regulatory violations at the Cambria plant.
“The tragic loss of life in this case shows the terrible consequences that can result when companies fail to implement required health, safety and environmental measures,” Uhlmann added.
Sentencing hearings for each of the defendants will be scheduled at a later date.
NBC15 News has reached out to Didion for a response to the verdict and will update this story with more information.
Originally published by NBC15 (WMTV Madison) on October 17, 2023.