Warren County supervisors opted to hold off Wednesday on suing the former director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition, who allegedly defrauded the county of $50,000, after some supervisors expressed a desire to sue the town of Queensbury as well.
The county board considered a resolution to sue David J. Decker for money that he was given that was supposed to be turned over to the county treasurer. But after hearing from residents who urged the county to sue Queensbury as well, and a prominent county supervisor backed their request, the board decided to hold off on the litigation for further discussion.
At the center of the potential litigation is an allegation that Decker, who faces numerous felony criminal charges for alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars, took the money that was meant for the county after the town of Queensbury turned it over to him.
Decker was director of Lake George Watershed Coalition at the time, and has not commented on the situation, but has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment. Prosecutors earlier this month agreed to drop nine charges, leaving 13 to head to trial later this year.
Decker oversaw grants for environmental projects in the Lake George region, and is accused of stealing federal and state grant funding. Among the money was $50,000 that was part of the reimbursement for a 2007 stream restoration/stormwater control project on Finkle Brook in Bolton.
The county was supposed to have received the money, but when the breadth of the allegations against Decker became clear over the past two years, some have urged litigation to try to get a judgment against him.
The Board of Supervisors Support Services Committee voted last month to sue Decker, but county residents Travis Whitehead and Bill Mahar urged the board to add the town of Queensbury as well, since the town had the money and some believe the project contracts make Queensbury responsible for the actions of the contractor.
Whitehead’s comments were particularly harsh, as he accused the town of trying to “fleece” the county.
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“He (Decker) embezzled the money from the town, not the county,” Whitehead said.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, former board chairman and county administrator, backed that effort Wednesday night, asking to amend the resolution to include Queensbury as a defendant.
“I agree with Travis in part. I do think the town of Queensbury was remiss,” he said.
County Attorney Mary Kissane said she did not see a specific cause of action, such as breach of contract, that the county would have against the town.
After Kissane’s comments, the board opted to table the resolution to discuss the issue further at Monday’s Support Services Committee meeting.
Town Supervisor John Strough, who was not at the meeting, said Thursday that Queensbury was a victim in the Decker transactions as well, since it is owed $60,000 from two projects, but the town fulfilled its obligations in the Bolton project by forwarding money to Decker in good faith.
“Asking the town of Queensbury taxpayers to dig into their pockets and ante up their own money to pay the county for something that was paid for by a New York state grant and paid for under the guidance and approval of the state’s Department of State and Comptrollers Office is not a reasonable request,” he said in an email. “Is the solution here for all involved entities (county, municipalities, and environmental groups) who were involved cooperatively to assure the water quality and beauty of our Lake George to start suing each other? No, we have way too much work that has to be done to protect our Lake George. Let’s keep moving forward.”
County officials believe Decker also illegally withheld a $22,500 payment that was supposed to go to the county through the town of Bolton for the same project. Supervisor Ron Conover said the town paid the county after learning of the issue.
Decker, a Burnt Hills engineer who has pleaded not guilty, is expected to stand trial in the criminal case later this year.