Former utilities employee pleads

Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Robert Vanderryt, 33, of Andalusia, pled guilty Tuesday to charges stemming from a 2013 investigation into the misuse of $28,000 and the improper use of Andalusia Utilities Board equipment.

The four-week investigation began in June of 2013 when officials received a tip from a former employee. The Andalusia Police Department spent four weeks on the investigation before turning its findings over to District Attorney Walt Merrell on July 9, 2013. Merrell asked the Alabama Bureau of Investigations to assist him in the investigation.

Vanderryt was the third man to plead guilty in the case. Originally charged with theft of property III, he pled guilty Tuesday before District Court Judge Julie Moody to misapplication of property.

Vanderryt was sentenced to one year in jail, but that sentence was suspended and he was placed on two years of probation. Additionally, he was ordered to pay his court costs plus $437.52 in restitution to the City of Andalusia Utilities Board.

Casey Ott of the ABI arrested Vanderryt on Oct. 23, 2014, Warrant affidavits revealed that Vanderryt legally attended a conference in Baldwin County, Ala., in connection with his employment with the Utilities Board. However, he illegally procured a condominium rental beyond the dates of the conference. The affidavit further shows that Vanderryt then used the Utilities Board credit card to purchase meals for his family and to purchase personal items while on this trip.

Two other men previously pled guilty in the case. In February of last year, former water department manager Kenneth Blackburn, 44, a plea of guilty to charges of theft of property I and using a public office for personal gain.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan sentenced him to 25 years, consisting of 10 years for the crime of using a public office for personal gain – an ethics violation and class C felony, and 15 years for the crime of theft of property – a class B felony.

As of yesterday, Blackburn was not listed among the inmates in the Alabama prison system.

Mickey Sharpe Jr., 47, also pleaded guilty last February to his role in the case and was sentenced to two years probation by District Judge Trippy McGuire.

Merrell handled the prosecution of all of the defendants involved in the Utilities Board thefts. On Tuesday, he said, “Vanderryt was a relatively minor player. His supervisor, Kenneth Blackburn, was the ringleader. Both have now been convicted for their wrongdoings and justice has been served.”