Former Kanab mayoral candidate charged in connection to alleged dumping of human waste by a creek

In addition to being in legal jeopardy, the Veteres and the company could face additional penalties and enforcement actions from the state.

A former Kanab mayoral candidate who owns a sanitation company is one of three individuals facing criminal charges in connection with the illegal discharge of human waste near a tributary of the Sevier River in southern Utah.

Sindi Brown Vetere, 42, who lost her bid to become Kanab’s mayor in 2021, and her husband, Weston Frank Vetere, 33, were charged Wednesday in 6th District Court with third-degree felony obstruction of justice. One of Sindi Vetere’s employees, 61-year-old James Phillip Torgerson of Fredonia, Arizona, was charged with knowingly violating the water quality act and obstruction of justice, both third-degree felonies.

The charges stem from a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office investigation into an illegal dumping incident that took place earlier this month. On July 15, sheriff’s dispatchers received a report of a sewer truck possibly dumping human waste by Asay Creek several miles south of the town of Hatch, according to the probable cause affidavit that accompanied the suspects’ arrest.

The person who reported the incident placed trail cameras near where the human waste was left and “was able to get pictures of the sewer company truck in the area,” the statement says. An investigator subsequently visited the area and found several sites that appeared to be contaminated with human waste.

“Most of the sites were older, but there was a smell consistent with raw sewage and what appeared to be dried toilet paper and female hygiene items. One of the sites appeared to be a very recent dump, due to the ground still being wet,” the affidavit states.

Last Sunday, the same person called the sheriff’s investigator and reported the trail cameras had captured evidence of vehicles and an excavator at the dump site, according to police. Sheriff’s deputies say they arrived and found Sindi Veterer, owner of A-Action Sanitation Inc., her husband Weston and Torgerson.

According to the affidavit, Weston was found operating an excavator to clean up the area where the dump sites were located. Torgerson admitted to dumping human waste in the area, according to the document. Sindi told investigators when she became aware of what Torgerson had done, the three of them determined they would go clean up the mess, the affidavit states.

“None of the parties present said they had reported the incident to anyone and had not received permission from the state, who owns the property where the human waste was dumped, to dig or alter the land,” according to the affidavit.

Garfield County Sheriff’s spokesperson Joseph Adams said the Veteres and Torgerson were arrested and booked into the Garfield County Jail, but are currently out on bail awaiting trial. Meanwhile, he added, the investigation is still ongoing.

Thus far, investigators say they have discovered a number of dump sites within a half-mile span, most of which are located on slopes about “50 or 60 feet” from the banks of Asay Creek, about a mile south of where it merges with the Sevier River.

Adams said the multiple sites indicate the July 15 dumping was not a one-off incident.

“We are still going through the evidence to figure out when this started,” he said.

To answer that and other questions, the Garfield and Kane county sheriff’s departments are working together to comb through the business records of Sindi Vetere’s company in Fredonia, Arizona, to determine if there is a pattern.

“We want to know if [Torgerson] was acting … on his own or if the business had any idea of what he was doing or was directing him to do it,” Adams said, adding there could be other illegal dump sites investigators are not aware of at this point.

“We’re trying to figure all that out,” he continued. “Part of that is going through [A-Action Sanitation’s] records, computers and phones. We have got some of those and sent them to the crime lab.”

In addition to being in legal jeopardy, the Veteres and the company could face additional penalties and enforcement actions from the state. The Utah Division of Water Quality and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department have sent engineers to the site to determine the extent of the damage and the risk to area waterways, which are used for fishing and watering livestock, among other things.

Utah Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Ashley Sumner said engineers’ immediate concern is to clean up the site.

“If there are impacts to the water, we do have enforcement options,” she said. “But at this point, it’s too early to make that determination.”

Sindi Vetere could not be reached for comment on the charges leveled against her and her husband, and Torgerson. She is well-known in Kanab for her failed 2021 campaign for mayor. She lost to winner Colten Johnson by a wide margin.

She has posted pictures on social media that show she was at the U.S. Capitol during the deadly Jan. 6 riot but is not among those who have been charged. In one Facebook post, she is pictured with two young girls standing in front of the Capitol during the insurrection. In another post, she blames the violence at the Capitol on Antifa infiltrators.

“Our government brought Antifa in by bus then took position to protect themselves,” she wrote.

Sindi Vetere’s company, which is a division of RD&B Enterprises Sage Excavation, has been doing business in southern Utah and northern Arizona for more than 30 years.