The former head of the Lake George Watershed Coalition met with police and prosecutors at least four times in recent months to try to explain away the criminal charges against him — interviews that authorities claim actually bolstered their case against him.
The interviews of David J. Decker were detailed in the nearly 150 pages of documents the Warren County District Attorney’s Office filed during his arraignment Wednesday on a 22-count indictment, and show that he claimed that he was entitled to any money he obtained through his time with the organizations.
Included among the paperwork were dozens of pages detailing legal gambling, as police and prosecutors contend that much of the $440,000 or so he allegedly stole was used for sports gambling, visits to Turning Stone Casino and scratch-off lottery tickets. They are only a small portion of the case, as prosecutors only have to turn over records related to any “admissions” Decker made at this stage of the case.
Decker also provided Warren County sheriff’s officers with a four-page missive that broke down his response to what he called the “misconceptions” that resulted in the criminal charges filed before his indictment.
“It would appear that those filing the charges had no understanding of the specifics of the totality of the $10 million West Brook Conservation Initiative, its component parts and how it was funded and contracted for,” he wrote. (West Brook Conservation Initiative is one of the projects Decker oversaw, as the former Gaslight Village amusement park was transformed into a wetland area and park.)
“One needs to have a grasp of the history, protocols and contractual obligations involved with establishing the LGWC and the contracting process and procedures that were established by the NYSDOS (Department of State) and how those were approved and followed throughout the 15-plus years of operation of the coalition, in advancing the lake-saving priority actions of the combined membership of the LGWC,” he wrote.
He also pointed out that “each and every contract” he administered was “reviewed and approved” by the local town or village board.
Sheriff’s officers also detailed Decker’s explanations during a May 19, 2017, meeting with sheriff’s investigators, and note properties he owns in Saratoga and Washington counties, and youth basketball leagues and camps that he helps operate as well.
“All money is Dave Decker’s. He performs work as a contractor,” police summarized from one of the interviews.
He said the “town board,” with the town not specified, knew he was doing business as Empire State Materials & Supply Co. of Glenville, a company that police and prosecutors claim was a shell company that did no work and provided no materials despite Decker funneling tens of thousands of dollars to it.
While Decker contends that he only received money to which he was entitled, he has also been indicted on tax fraud charges alleging this money was not claimed on his 2012, 2013 and 2014 state tax returns.
In court on Wednesday, Warren County Assistant District Attorney Ben Smith also turned over numerous computer discs containing audiotapes of the meetings, but they were not filed in court and were not submitted for the public case file.
Decker has pleaded not guilty to an indictment that includes 21 felonies and one misdemeanor, including a charge of first-degree corrupting the government, a count that is punishable by up to 25 years in state prison. That charge alleges he was a public official and that he “engaged in a scheme to defraud the state” or other municipal entity between September 2007 and Dec. 31, 2016.
He was initially arrested in March 2017 and was removed from his $111,000-a-year position at the time. The charges were the result of an investigation that began when hundreds of thousands of payments were late in different environmental projects, leading to questions from the Warren County Treasurer’s Office and a request for an investigation by Queensbury resident Travis Whitehead.
The case has rocked the Lake George region, where Decker was well-known in government and environmental group circles after his 15-plus years of work on major environmental projects, working from an office in Lake George Village Hall.