When Deputy District Attorney Allan Kaplan settled with KAMAP for $60,000 in fines last November, Dave Oldfield, the painter who tipped off the Air Pollution Control District after being exposed, said he felt robbed and cheated of justice.
Oldfield said he believes a more thorough investigation by Kaplan might have yielded more evidence to back up his initial claim: KAMAP’s owner and employees knew what they were doing when they exposed him to asbestos.
"I see kids out here getting cited for open containers, pot charges, noise violations and they all appear in front of a judge. How can this guy get away with something this big?" Oldfield said. "I don’t see that this district attorney has done his job properly. This whole thing was squashed."
Forty-year-old Oldfield came to Isla Vista in 1998 after spending four months in the county jail on a phone-tampering charge. Fresh out of jail with no job home or savings, Oldfield came to the town he frequented since his high school days.
Oldfield began working as a mechanic and kept an apartment in I.V. until both were lost a year later. He then began taking on various odd jobs for KAMAP and with his friend, Mike Trotter. Trotter had told him of the insulation-removal project at the Aladdin, and Oldfield showed up the first morning of the job. He said he received his work orders from contractor Mike Pinter and started work with no respirators, just gloves and scraping tools.
Oldfield said he requested a respirator after noticing large amounts of dust resulting from the asbestos dry scrape. Pinter vaguely answered his direct questions about asbestos, but Oldfield said he didn’t inquire further into the safety of the job because he needed the work.
"When you’re trying to get work with a company, sometimes you don’t ask a whole lot of questions. It’s hard to make it in this town, and working for a landlord is pretty consistent, if you can get it," he said.
Oldfield said he asked for and received a respirator, and the other workers followed suit. He worked 12- to 14-hour days for five days with an uncertified respirator and clothes dusted with asbestos fibers. Five months after being exposed, Oldfield said he began to experience respiratory problems such as coughing up tissue, mucus and blood.
KAMAP owner John Warkentin’s attorney John Richards said Oldfield’s health problems are fabricated or not related to his short-term exposure to asbestos during the cleanup.
"Most people who have asbestos problems have repeated exposure, and it takes a long time to come about – it’s almost impossible that [Oldfield’s statements are] true," Richards said. "It’s a complete farce."
Oldfield said he suspected working in the Aladdin was the cause of the problems, and he went to Warkentin asking for money to see a doctor. Oldfield left the meeting without any guarantee of medical assistance. Oldfield said when he met with Warkentin in August the landlord attempted to verbally maneuver him into making a claim for money before asking him to return the next day.
Oldfield came back the following day with friend and co-worker Mike Trotter. Both Trotter and Oldfield claim the second meeting was also fruitless, and Trotter said Warkentin "tried to entrap" him.
"He also said, ‘If you turn me in, I’ll file extortion charges on you with the FBI.’ That’s when we left," Trotter said.
Kaplan said he received the extortion charges from Warkentin around the time he heard of the APCD investigation but didn’t find evidence to prosecute Oldfield.
"We found there was no corpus in the case," Kaplan said.
Richards declined to discuss the extortion charges his client attempted to file, but Oldfield considers it the No. 1 reason he approached the APCD with his story.