Press-Republican

November 21, 2013

APA, Adirondack Council settle longstanding litigation

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — BLACK BROOK — Longstanding litigation against the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Park Agency by Leroy Douglas and the Douglas Corp. has been settled.

In a joint announcement, Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan and Douglas’s attorney, Matthew Norfolk of Lake Placid, said they reached an agreement out of court.

The legal challenge dates back to administrative action by the APA in 2006 and 2007, when Douglas claimed the state regulatory agency was unduly influenced by council leadership and reopened an enforcement case involving an environmental spill on his property.

The Douglas lawsuit was filed in March 2010, seeking more than $60 million in damages across 13 claims, plus court and legal fees, against the Adirondack Council, with additional claims against APA. It named several employees of the Adirondack Council, along with APA staff and commissioners.

TRIAL AVERTED

U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby dismissed 10 claims last September, allowing three to stand for trial. Parties began to prepare for discovery at that point. 

But the matter has been closed, except for one claim.

“I can confirm that Leroy Douglas and the Douglas Corporation have settled their claims against the Adirondack Council,” Norfolk said via email on Tuesday.

“In addition, I can confirm that Mr. Douglas and the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake have settled with the (APA) and the named APA officials.

“As part of settlement, both the Adirondack Council and New York state are obligated to pay agreed upon sums of money to the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake. 

“It is unknown whether the settlement payment from the state will come out of the APA’s operating funds, in whole or in part.”

COUNCIL CLEARED

Norfolk did not disclose the settlement amount.

But Sheehan said payment from the council will draw, in part, from insurance coverage.

“The Adirondack Council’s insurance carrier has agreed to reimburse a portion of Mr. Douglas’ legal expenses in lieu of incurring further defense costs,” Sheehan said via email.

“Mr. Douglas and the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake had previously dismissed all claims against the Adirondack Council Inc. employees who had been named as defendants.”

The settlement also clears the council of any wrongdoing or liability.

“... and Mr. Douglas and the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake acknowledge that the Adirondack Council did not violate their constitutional rights or (fraudulently) interfere with the Douglas Corporation’s agreement with the Adirondack Park Agency,” Sheehan said.

“While the Adirondack Council regrets any misunderstandings or miscommunications which may have occurred, it will continue to pursue its mission and vision of strong environmental protections and sustainable vibrant communities in the Adirondack Park.”

ONE CLAIM STANDING

Norfolk said Brian Ruder, former chairman of the Adirondack Council, is the only remaining defendant left in the action. He had no further information Tuesday pursuant to the remaining claim.

But Ruder is no longer active on the Adirondack Council Board of Directors.

The council’s former executive director, Brian Houseal, also cleared in the settlement, left the organization in October last year and has since formed Houseal Associates LLC, an environmental consulting firm based in Westport.

Last summer, the Douglas Corp. sold the property involved in the initial APA dispute in a transaction listed for $350,000, which included six parcels on Silver Lake.

“The settlement with the Adirondack Council and APA defendants follows the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake’s sale of all of the remaining lots making up the Silver Lake waterfront property that was the subject matter of the underlying APA administrative enforcement proceedings, which ultimately gave rise to the federal lawsuit,” Norfolk said.

Norfolk had raised legal concerns that APA enforcement and the council’s directive via Ruder hindered Douglas’s ability to sell the property.

Ruder owns property on Silver Lake next to the land Douglas had looked to develop.

FELONY REDUCED

In 2010, Douglas was indicted by a Clinton County grand jury on a felony count of environmental endangerment for an oil spill in 2008, stemming from waste oil stored at a garage on his property.

The case ended in a plea agreement in October 2011, when Douglas and his corporation each paid a $5,000 fine and hired an environmental firm to confirm the area had been cleaned up. 

The felony charge was reduced in the plea agreement to a misdemeanor.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com