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County drops lawsuit against former watershed coalition director convicted of fraud

County drops lawsuit against former watershed coalition director convicted of fraud

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QUEENSBURY — Warren County is dropping its lawsuit against the former director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition because it is set to receive restitution following his conviction on fraud charges.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors Personnel and Administration Committee voted Wednesday to withdraw the lawsuit against David Decker.

Decker was convicted on March 28 on six grand larceny and tax evasion charges following a four-week trial in Warren County Court. He was arrested in March 2017 on allegations that he stole more than $440,000 in state and federal funds that were allocated for more than a dozen environmental projects in Lake George.

Some of the payments that Decker accepted for the work were funneled to a shell contracting corporation that he created, which did not provide any services or materials.

Decker faces between 5 and 15 years in prison when sentenced on June 11.

Warren County in May 2019 had decided to sue Decker to recoup a $50,000 payment that county officials said he never turned over to the county. This was for a steam restoration/stormwater control project on Finkle Brook in Bolton.

At the time, Decker’s case was indefinitely postponed after originally being scheduled to go to trial in July 2018.

Following a 15-minute executive session, the committee on Wednesday ratified the county’s decision to withdraw the case because of Decker’s conviction.

“The decision to drop the civil case against Dave Decker is due to the fact that Mr. Decker was found guilty of stealing $50,000 from Warren County by a jury of his peers,” said County Administrator Ryan Moore in an email. “We are seeking full restitution through the criminal case. The district attorney requested that we drop the civil case in order to more effectively pursue the stolen funds via restitution.”

Decker’s attorney, Karl Sleight, reacted to the news of the county dropping the case.

“The most likely reason for the county quickly dismissing this frivolous lawsuit was because two county law enforcement officials were due to be deposed under oath in a few days,” he said in an email. “Those officials told the county they refused to be deposed. The county found itself in an untenable position and had no choice but to dismiss the case. I wonder why those officials were so afraid to testify about these allegations?”

Sleight provided a document stating that Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Smith and Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Stockdale were set to be deposed virtually in the case May 19 and May 20, respectively.

The county initially sought a one-week delay and then abruptly changed course and sought an indefinite postponement, according to a letter written by one of Decker’s attorneys, Daniel R. LeCours, to attorney Robert Terwilliger, who is handling the case for the county.

Decker’s legal team said it was an effort to deny him his rights to a resolution of what it considered a meritless claim.

“Any such motion would be frivolous and confirm that the county is engaging in disingenuous gamesmanship,” LeCours wrote.

Warren County officials could not be reached for further comment.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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