TUCSON, ARIZONA — As members of the Kingdome Christian Center Church sobbed openly in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom Friday morning, Miracle Gro’s chief environmental officer was about to board a plane to Tucson.
While the Reverend Lonnie R. Keene pleaded for leniency for Sheila R. Kendrick, one of his most valued employees, Rich Shank was plotting how to make the sad story go away in front of 600 or so garden writers at their annual national convention.
If only there were a pesticide he could spray for such a bad public relations problem.
‘IT DOESN’T PASS THE SNIFF TEST’
Sheila Kendrick, now 45, was by all accounts a valued and trusted employee of Scotts Miracle Gro for 16 years beginning in 1992. When the company was busted in 2008 for selling tens of thousands of dollars of mislabled pesticides — leading to the largest set of pesticide fines ($12.5 million) ever handed down by the federal government earlier this year — Kendrick took the fall and offered up a guilty plea in exchange for a 90-day prison sentence.
When the sentencing day came Friday, however, her friends, family and fellow church goers and staffers couldn’t contain their emotions. This was not a woman who fit anyone’s criminal profile.
“Sheila is a wonderful person,” said her attorney David Axelrod.
“Her job at our church will be waiting for her when she returns,” said the Reverend Keene.
The judge in the case didn’t budge and stuck to the 90-day plea bargain, noting that she could have faced up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine given the severity of the plot she allegedly masterminded — singlehandedly. Nearly $40 million worth of illegal products known as Miracle-Gro Shake ’n’ Feed with Weed Preventer All Purpose Plant Food and Turf Builder Plus 2 Max reportedly made it to the marketplace based on falsified documentation.
Back at Scotts Miracle Gro, the company would have everyone believe that Kendrick was either lazy, or malicious, or both.
“No one else in the company knew about the illegal activities of one of our associates,” said megalomaniacal company president Jim Hagedorn in an open letter on the company’s web site in September.
Saturday morning in Tucson Rich Shank attempted to distance the company from Kendrick, saying she was part of a problem the that Hagedorn regime inherited during Miracle Gro’s angry takeover of Scotts back in 1995. Yet she continued to work for the company for 13 more years.
“It’s a joke, it doesn’t pass the sniff test even a little bit for them to pin this on one employee as if no one else knew,” said a prominent garden writer from the west coast. “Sheila was one of the most loved people in that building for a long, long time. They want us to believe that she wasn’t part of a much larger company culture? Incredible.”
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