QUEENSBURY — The theft trial of the former director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition has been postponed indefinitely as a judge weighs whether the defendant needs a new lawyer.
David J. Decker was scheduled to stand trial starting Jan. 7 on a 22-count indictment that accuses him of stealing an estimated $440,000 of state and federal funding when serving as the coalition’s director.
But Decker’s lawyer, Joseph Brennan, has been dealing with health problems that led to Hall canceling the trial date. He is debating whether Brennan will be up to trying the case within the court system’s “standards and goals” for a timely felony trial.
Hall summoned Decker to court on Friday to discuss his concerns and determine what Decker wanted to do in terms of legal representation. Brennan’s law partner, William White, told Hall he would not be able to handle the case in Brennan’s absence.
Decker told Hall he wants to keep Brennan as his lawyer, as Brennan has indicated he believes he will recover from his health issues and be ready for trial early next year.
Hall, though, said he had some questions about that, as the trial will prove to be long and arduous.
Should Decker hire new counsel, or decide he can’t afford a lawyer and opt for the Warren County Public Defender’s Office, Hall said the new counsel will be given an opportunity to get up to speed.
“I’m going to give this lawyer as much time as they need to adequately represent you,” Hall said.
Hall gave Decker until Jan. 9 to try to iron out his representation, with either a new attorney or potentially a commitment from Brennan that he will be up to a trial. The judge said he also planned to do some legal research on the issue.
Hall said he hoped the trial could be rescheduled for some point in March.
Decker, 67, of Burnt Hills, oversaw the Lake George Watershed Coalition, a network of groups that pursued projects to protect Lake George, for more than 15 years, handling virtually all of the financial paperwork for millions of dollars in work.
The coalition is a loosely organized group of public and private organizations that helped push projects to protect and enhance water quality on and around Lake George. Decker, an engineer, led the organization as an independent contractor from 2001 until his arrest last year, working much of the time from an office in Lake George Village Hall.
He is no longer involved with the coalition.
Questions arose about finances during his tenure, as Warren County awaited state funding reimbursement for a number of projects, and a state audit rapped a number of towns for lax oversight of the coalition’s funding.
Decker has pleaded not guilty to counts of grand larceny, corrupting the government, tax fraud and falsifying business records in a 22-count indictment. He has been accused of diverting state and federal funding to himself over a period going back to 2012.
Decker has claimed the money he received was legitimate payment for his work, but he is accused of tax fraud for not claiming the money on his state taxes in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
He turned down a plea deal offer last month that would have netted him a 5- to 15-year prison sentence and require restitution.