A Utah man and his companies will pay $265,000 to the federal government for the cost of cleaning up cyanide-contaminated film chips left by an industrial process that is believed to have caused the 1983 death of a plant worker in Illinois.
Sandy businessman Michael T. MacKay reached the agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency several months ago, although it was apparently filed in federal court only recently.MacKay has been charged in Illinois with murder in connection with the cyanide poisoning death of Stefan Golab, 61, who worked at the now-defunct Film Recovery Systems Inc. plant in Elk Grove, Ill.
MacKay has yet to face those charges because both former Gov. Scott M. Matheson and Gov. Norm Bangerter have refused to extradite MacKay. However, three other former executives of the company were convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The EPA filed suit against MacKay and his companies in hopes of recouping costs of cleaning up cyanide-laced film chips, which are the byproduct of a process in which cyanide is used to recover silver from X-ray film.
The consent decree, which will be paid by MacKay, B.R. MacKay and Sons of Salt Lake, Film Recovery Systems and its president, Stephen J. O'Neil, settles the EPA claims, but does not assign any guilt or responsibility, according to Richard B. Ferrari, MacKay's Salt Lake attorney.
"All it means is that you would rather pay a certain amount of money rather than have to encourage more attorneys' fees or go through further litigation," Ferrari said.
The recovery costs were the subject of a lawsuit filed in Utah by MacKay in 1986. At the time, MacKay said he could not travel to Illinois to defend himself against the EPA suit because he feared he would be arrested on the murder charge.
But federal judges in both Utah and Illinois rejected that argument.
As for the extradition issue, Cook County prosecutors in Illinois thought they were finally going to get MacKay after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 1987 that governors have no choice in granting extradition.
But about the same time, an Illinois appellate court ruled in a separate case that federal workplace-safety laws protect corporations from criminal prosecution for knowingly injuring their employees. If that ruling is affirmed on appeal, it could mean MacKay and other Film Recovery Services executives would be insulated from murder charges, and Cook County officials have yet to renew their extradition request.
The state justices could rule on the case in June, but the U.S. Supreme Court likely will be asked to review any decision.