QUEENSBURY — The director of Lake Champlain Lake George Regional Planning Board, under fire for questions about a loan fund his agency administers, did not attend a meeting as requested by Warren County supervisors on Monday, leaving supervisors fuming and leading to a call for his resignation.
The staff of the Regional Planning Board was scheduled to meet with the county’s Economic Growth & Development Committee on Monday. But when the meeting time came and went and no one showed up, county staff reached out and was told that Director Walter Young had mixed up his dates. The Post-Star reported on the meeting date last week.
Young offered to meet with county supervisors in a week or so, with his agency’s auditor. That meeting was set for May 3.
Officials from law enforcement and at least one other county were in attendance Monday.
The Regional Planning Board’s loan fund has been the subject of investigation and consternation in recent weeks after it was determined family members of at least two local county supervisors had received low-interest business loans in recent months and that the loan fund seemed to have a high rate of defaults.
The state Authorities Budget Office, which oversees most economic development loan funds in New York but had not been aware of this one, was looking into its activities. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office forwarded a complaint of possible criminal activity to the State Police Special Investigations Unit.
Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty, who has been the board’s most outspoken critic of Young’s, called on Young to step down Monday, saying he knew the meeting date and calling the situation “a travesty.”
Beaty had gone to Young’s office earlier this month, seeking information about the loan fund, only to have Young tell him he should file Freedom of Information Law requests for it.
“He’s gone out of his way not to answer any of this, and to hide information,” Beaty said. “He committed to coming to this EDC meeting a month ago.”
Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said she was “incredulous” that Young did not attend the meeting after the questions that have been raised about his organization.
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“How can he not see this is a serious matter?” she asked.
Argyle Supervisor Robert Henke, chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, was in attendance as well, saying he wanted to hear what was said about the loan fund concerns.
Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, is usually reserved, but was obviously angry Monday as he said that Young “needs to come here and do his job and be a good communicator.”
“They are a public creature, a creation of the counties,” Conover said of the Regional Planning Board.
Henke, a former state Department of Environmental Conservation police lieutenant, said he was concerned about the lack of response to questions so far.
“It gives the impression there is something to hide,” Henke said.
Young is a part-time Warren County employee, having retired from a full-time job as director of the Regional Planning Board to collect his pension plus a $30,000-a-year salary.
A reporter who went to Young’s office after the meeting was told he was not there because he had a doctor’s appointment. A message left for him was not returned.
The Lake George-based Regional Planning Board is made up of elected and appointed officials from five counties in the region — Warren, Washington, Essex, Hamilton and Clinton. All five counties provide funding for its operations. Part of its mission is to “promote sustainable economic development that strengthens our communities, provides quality jobs and preserves the unique natural, historical and cultural characteristics of the region,” according to its website.
In light of the questions that have been raised, Warren County rescinded its decision to provide $7,000 in funding this year, and Washington County supervisors will discuss their county’s funding at a meeting Tuesday morning.