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Warren County accused of 'fraud' in lawsuit by attorney

Warren County accused of 'fraud' in lawsuit by attorney

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QUEENSBURY — An attorney who represented Warren County in a legal proceeding is suing the county and five current and former county officials, claiming the county fraudulently withheld payment from him after he won a lawsuit.

Daniel Vincelette of Albany filed a lawsuit this week in state Supreme Court in Warren County, seeking $16,363 and any other relief the court sees fit for his claims that the county did not compensate him after his work for a 2017-18 court case.

Vincelette represented the county in a lawsuit over its eminent domain claim for land to extend the main runway at the county airport. The company that sued the county, Forest Enterprises Management Inc., had claimed that the county’s compensation was not adequate.

The county won the case, as Forest Enterprises was awarded $297,000, more than $2 million less than the company was seeking. The county later scrapped the plan to extend the runway after the Federal Aviation Administration took another look at the proposal.

Vincelette’s bill was the subject of discussion by the county Board of Supervisors in May 2018, before the case had been decided. Supervisors had been told the legal bill for counsel, expert witnesses and other costs would be about $30,000 when litigation began, but it wound up topping $35,000 well before the case was finished.

The board’s Public Works Committee approved additional funding at the time, but the final resolution was not considered by the full Board of Supervisors and additional money wasn’t paid, according to the lawsuit.

In a harshly worded claim, Vincelette wrote that he was not compensated for an expert witness he retained, for purchase of the trial transcript and other legal costs.

“Defendant made false representation in support of a scheme to defraud plaintiff,” he wrote.

The lawsuit claims that Vincelette was told by the former airport manager, who left the county’s employ for a state job in early 2018, that the county Board of Supervisors “can make any adjustments that may be necessary” if legal costs went higher.

The lawsuit names the county, county Attorney Mary Kissane, Public Works Superintendent Kevin Hajos, former Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson, Airport Manager Don DeGraw and former Airport Manager Ross Dubarry as defendants.

Kissane said Vincelette agreed to a cap of $20,000, and he did not come to the board to ask for an increase.

County Administrator Ryan Moore said that Vincelette knew that the money available for the case was “capped” when he took it on.

“This lawsuit is frivolous; we will be seeking to dismiss and we are contemplating seeking sanctions,” Moore said. “Mr. Vincelette signed an engagement letter and a contract both stipulating that compensation for his services was capped. The county has authority to pay him only up to that capped amount. In seeking to exceed this authorization, Mr. Vincelette misled the Board of Supervisors. That is not how we operate.”

No court date had been set as of Friday.

Don Lehman covers police and court matters and Warren County government. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or dlehman@poststar.com

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime, Warren County government and the outdoors for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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