A South Florida man trusted to help provide water services to residents in North Miami Beach is in hot water himself, charged with stealing the meters that had been used to take readings at homes and businesses.
Van Harrington, a manager at North Miami Beach's public works, has resigned and is facing a felony charge.
Police records show that the 51-year-old Harrington was an operations manager at the public works department. With that title he knew how the system worked when it came to the equipment, and police say he was stealing and selling it.
Water meters are out in front of homes, apartments, and businesses across North Miami Beach, the meters sending signals that turn in to water bills.
“Well, it's sad that anybody has that in their character to do something like that," said Bruce Lamberto, who heads the North Miami Beach Public Utility Commission.
Police charged Harrington with stealing city-owned water meters that were no longer being used and taking them to a recycling center in Opa-Locka where they were sold.
"We have to apologize on behalf of the city that this occurred," Lamberto said. "You know we can’t control individual character. When you hire somebody you hope that they do have that."
On the day that led to Harrington’s arrest, police had an undercover team watching him. Officers say he placed the city’s meters in a city-owned work truck and drove them to a man’s home where they were transferred to another truck and taken to Opa-locka.
Lamberto applauded what appears to be another city employee who tipped off police.
"Obviously this has been going on for a while. Nobody noticed, and nobody noticed except for a fellow employee that helped them to catch it but there should be management in place to have oversight of this,” he said.
The city released a statement about the arrest.
"Criminal activity by a public servant is an affront to the citizens of North Miami Beach and will never be tolerated. The actions of one individual do not represent our hard-working, dedicated city employees," the statement read. "We maintain the highest standards of conduct and will take immediate and appropriate action anytime wrongdoing is suspected."
Harrington entered a not guilty plea and his attorney said he would have no further comment for now.
Another man was also arrested in the investigation. There’s no indication this affected anyone’s actually water bill but police aren’t done with their investigation.