Contractor pleads guilty to dumping

YORK -- Rock Hill businessman Frank Neely pleaded guilty to an illegal dumping charge Monday and will be forced to pay for cleanup.

Judge Michael Nettles sentenced Neely, owner of 7 Star Construction, to one year of probation and ordered him to pay to clean up the debris at the 10-acre parcel his company owns on Holland Road west of Rock Hill.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials in May accused Neely, 50, of dumping construction and land clearing debris at the site from March 2004 until April 2007.

Neely pleaded guilty on Monday to violating South Carolina's solid waste act, which requires a permit for such dumping.

State prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Neely violated the state's pollution control act in exchange for his guilty plea. Neely could have faced up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine for the misdemeanor.

Prior to sentencing, attorney Jim Griffin, representing Neely, touted his client's civic involvement as a former standout wrestler at Northwestern High School, the founder of Chester's inspirational gospel Rejoice Radio and a well-known business leader. Griffin said Neely's only mistake was failing to follow permitting guidelines.

"Mr. Neely is very active in the community and very well-respected," he said, noting that Neely has no criminal history. "He's led an exemplary life in this community."

Griffin said Neely would work with DHEC officials to start the cleanup process as soon as possible.

Prior landfill request

In 2004, Neely won preliminary approval from the York County Council for a construction and demolition landfill he wanted to build on 86 acres off Mount Holly Road near S.C. 901.

Two months after the council gave its tentative OK, The Herald obtained a memo from the county manager's office saying Neely likely wouldn't get DHEC approval for the landfill because it was too close to neighboring homes. The memo also said DHEC was investigating whether Neely was running an illegal landfill at his Holland Road property.

Neely said he had done nothing wrong. He called the investigation "dirty politics."

Three days after the memo was leaked, Neely withdrew the landfill proposal without explanation.