An Adirondack property-rights advocate pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Clinton County Court to charges of violating several environmental conservation laws.
A Clinton County grand jury indicted AuSable Forks resident LeRoy Douglas, 61, who owns a campground and restaurant on Silver Lake, in December on charges of endangering public health, safety, or the environment in the third degree, a felony with a maximum fine of $150,000 and up to four years in prison.
The charge refers to allegations by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that Douglas and the Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake disposed of numerous 55-gallon drums containing a hazardous substance onto property owned by the corporation.
Douglas is also charged with three misdemeanors: unlawful disposal of solid waste, with possible penalties of $3,750 to $22,500 per day in fines and up to a year in jail; disturbing the bed or banks of a classified trout stream, with possible penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in jail; and failure to register a petroleum bulk-storage facility, with possible penalties of $3,750 to $22,500 per day and up to a year in jail.
He was also charged with several petroleum bulk-storage violations.
But Douglas told the Enterprise today that he is innocent and that the charges are part of a set-up that involves his son Michael, whom he said he evicted from his property in recent years for not paying rent.
Douglas said his son "had taken garbage and spread it around" and placed two deer carcasses that he had killed on the property.
This occurred after Michael was told not to be on the property, Douglas said.
"He stole from me for years," Douglas said.
The charges stem from an investigation that began in July 2008 in response to complaints of environmental crimes at the Black Brook property, according to the DEC. Environmental conservation police and the Clinton County Sheriff's Department obtained a search warrant and searched the property in August 2008.
A DEC press release stated that 22 55-gallon drums and one saddle drum were removed from the property by a private contractor at the DEC's direction. The DEC also stated that 5,000 cubic yards of solid waste were located on the property, including a pile of lead acid batteries, restaurant supplies, household garbage, furniture, dead animals, chemical containers, medical waste and ash from burning solid waste.
Douglas said he has a dumpster on the property that he empties every two weeks in the summer, when the campground and restaurant are in use. He said it's not illegal.
The investigation was conducted by DEC Police Investigator Ken Bruno, who is based out of the DEC Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook. The case is being prosecuted by the Clinton County District Attorney's Office.
Douglas was released on his own recognizance and the case was adjourned until Feb. 14.
In an unrelated case, Douglas is suing the state Adirondack Park Agency and the Adirondack Council in federal court, claiming the agency and the environmental group "conspired and worked together in concert" to bring an enforcement case against him in 2007. Douglas is also suing the Council and Brian Ruder, chairman of its board of directors, in state Supreme Court.
Enterprise Senior Staff Writer Chris Knight contributed to this report.