LAKE GEORGE — Authorities have filed an additional grand larceny count against the former Lake George American Legion post building manager who was arrested last spring for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the organization.
Leaders of the veterans group say the post is starting to recover from the devastating theft.
Richard A. Gijanto, 67, of Queensbury, faces three counts of grand larceny and a charge of falsifying business records, all felonies, for theft of cash and misuse of a credit card from Post No. 774 between 2008 and 2016, court records show. He was initially charged with two grand larceny counts last spring.
In all, he is accused of stealing just under $106,000 from the organization, according to complaints filed in Queensbury Town Court. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.
Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said the case remains pending and his office expected it to move forward in the coming months.
The American Legion post had significant financial problems because of the theft, but with new management has been able to start to recover from the loss.
Angela Vernum, wife of post Commander Gary Vernum, said the organization has been able to bounce back from the theft, with membership increased and more events at the Route 9L post.
“We’ve worked very hard the past year and a half, putting money in the bank and paying our bills,” she said. “It was quite a substantial amount, but we have been holding breakfasts, fish fries, wing night and doing more rentals.”
The post has been able to provide financial support to programs to help veterans and continue its scholarship program, Vernum added.
Despite the progress, the organization continues to get old bills that were left unpaid by Gijanto, and its leadership believes the financial loss from his tenure was far higher than the amount confirmed so far for the criminal charges, Vernum said.
“I don’t think we will ever know how much (was stolen),” she said. “It’s kind of sickening.”
Police believe Gjanto used the money to support a gambling habit.
Gijanto’s lawyer, William White, did not return a phone call for comment Wednesday or Thursday.
Gijanto faces up to 15 years in state prison on the weightiest charge, second-degree grand larceny.
Nearly 40 years after polio was eradicated in the United States, a group that handled polio clinics is about to be abolished too.
Moreau and South Glens Falls have a consolidated Board of Health that meets four times a year. In the 1960s and 1970s, its main role was to set up polio clinics to vaccinate children.
It has continued ever since, although it is not in charge of septic systems, does not take on environmental issues like invasive species and generally has no role in town or village health.
The Town Board and Village Board handle the topics that other towns assign to their boards of health.
But the board costs residents $3,000 a year — a paltry sum, perhaps, but it adds up, said Supervisor Todd Kusnierz.
He argued that the meetings were also a waste of time.
“At one meeting I believe the health officer gave a report on the number of (mosquito) dunks we gave out, which I don’t think we really need a report on,” he said.
The board’s longtime physician retired at the last meeting, and Kusneriz found another local doctor who was willing to consider becoming the health officer if needed.
But Town Board members agreed it was time to let it go.
“Three thousand dollars a year. It doesn’t seem to serve a purpose,” said board member Gian LeClair.
Board member Kyle Noonan looked into what other boards of health do, but noted that in Moreau, the Town Board has those powers.
“I don’t know what we’d do (in the board of the health) that we couldn’t discuss in this board. Sewer and septic, we do that here anyway,” he said.
If a building was creating a health problem, the Town Board has the power to act, Kusnierz added.
The Board of Health consists of the supervisor, the mayor, the town clerk as secretary and a health officer. Kusnierz has asked the Village Board to consider the issue, since both boards will have to decide whether to abolish the consolidated board.
Mayor Harry Gutheil said he would research the issue and present it to the Village Board.
“If we’re going to do it, we need to do it with caution,” he said. “I think we need to know what everybody’s responsibilities are going to be.”
QUEENSBURY — Former Councilman Doug Irish is leaving — officially, this time.
He is selling his house. He has resigned from the Republican Committee, effective Feb. 1. His wife, Joanne, is moving to North Carolina, where he works, and they have put an offer on a house there.
They’re planning to rescue pitbulls and raise goats. And maybe — just maybe — get into politics there.
“Never say never,” Irish said. “I got involved in politics because of a housing project in the 1990s. If there is a reason for me to get involved in North Carolina, I will, but I’m not making any plans to do so at this time.”
In any case, he’s definitely out of Warren County politics now. In a resignation email to Warren County Republican Committee Chairman Mike Grasso, Irish wrote that he was officially moving out of state.
“I think it would be appropriate at this time to resign from the Committee, both Queensbury and the County,” he wrote. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve and good luck in the future with Republican efforts in Queensbury and Warren County.”
His decision came a week after a group of Republicans said they felt Irish was damaging the party. Their top priority, they said, was to kick him out of the Warren County and Queensbury Republican committees.
But Irish said that wasn’t why he was resigning. Instead, in an interview, he said he misses Queensbury.
“Kind of bittersweet leaving Queensbury, but when opportunity knocks...” he said.
He got a job this summer at Fayetteville Technical Community College, where he is a department chairman.
He added that he would’ve moved away, eventually.
“We were planning on retiring to the south in a couple of years anyway, so this just expedited our timeline a little bit,” he said. “Had I known the south actually now means Cuba to avoid the snow and cold, I might have had another plan.”
He hasn’t had as much snow there as has fallen here, but enough snow has fallen this winter in North Carolina to support ski mountains. One near him boasts that it has one of the longest ski seasons on the East Coast.
They have made an offer on a house in an agricultural area with enough acreage to start an animal rescue. His wife wants to buy some goats.
“We both love pit bulls and would like to rescue, save and adopt out as many as possible,” Irish said.
Joanne Irish does not yet have a job in their new home state, although she is looking. She will remain employed as chief financial officer for Irish’s business, AccuracyDriven4. Irish is confident she will find a new job in North Carolina.
“There is a lot of opportunity here for someone with her skill sets,” he said.
His company will continue and will hire to fill the position he held. Irish has been the CEO of the company. It provides an independent audit of vehicle repair companies, so that they can tell manufacturers and insurance companies exactly what they can do. The company will continue with Audie Swedeen, who co-founded AccuracyDriven4 with Irish.
Irish is delighted that his wife will be joining him in North Carolina. He has been living there without for her six months.
“She’s that good woman behind every man, pushing him to be better,” he said. “My rock.”