QUEENSBURY — The former director of Lake George Watershed Coalition has a new trial date and a new lawyer to face charges he stole more than $400,000 in state and federal funding during his tenure.
David J. Decker has retained attorney Karl Sleight of the Albany firm Harris Beach PLLC to represent him on a 22-count indictment that includes charges of defrauding the government, grand larceny, corrupting the government, tax fraud and falsifying business records.
Sleight appeared with Decker before Warren County Judge John Hall on Wednesday. Hall scheduled a pretrial conference on March 5, hearings on April 8 and a trial to start April 22. Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said much of the pretrial motion practice and evidence disclosure has already taken place.
The case had been scheduled for trial Jan. 7, but health issues for the lawyer who has represented Decker since his March 2017 arrest, Joseph Brennan, necessitated a postponement and new counsel.
Decker has been accused of diverting state and federal funding to himself and to a shell contracting corporation he set up that was not believed to have done any work or provided materials for any watershed projects.
He oversaw for two decades environmental projects that were pursued by the loosely knit coalition of environmental groups and municipalities in the Lake George basin. Much of the coalition’s work was funded by state and federal grant funding, but Decker is accused of stealing $440,000 between 2013 and 2017.
Decker, 67, of Burnt Hills, 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.
Sleight is former executive director of the New York State Ethics Commission and nephew of former Warren County First Assistant District Attorney Virginia Sleight.
He said later Wednesday he was just beginning to look through the case file, and had no comment on what the defense angles may be going forward.
“We’re certainly looking forward to trying the case,” he said.
Decker has refused a plea deal that would have netted him a 5- to 15-year prison sentence and required $440,000 restitution. He faces up to 25 years on the weightiest charge, defrauding the government.