Top-Ranking Hudson Valley Fire Officials Charged With Corruption
A Hudson Valley fire captain and commissioner are accused of abusing their power and taking over $30,000 from their local fire department.
The former West Hurley Fire District Chief and a current fire commissioner were both arrested on Friday for abusing their authority and costing the district over $30,000 in funds since 2012, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright.
David Gutierrez, 52, and Michael “Bucky” VanValkenburgh, 44, both of West Hurley, were charged with corrupting the government and official misconduct.
“Mr. Gutierrez and Mr. VanValkenburgh allegedly violated their duty and used resources meant to protect their community to fund their personal business and lifestyle,” DiNapoli said. “Thanks to the joint work of my office with District Attorney Carnright, they will now be held accountable.”
Former Chief Gutierrez, with VanValkenburgh’s help, used the fire district water tanker for his wife’s Woodstock Landscaping and Excavating business, officials say.
He also allegedly used the tanker to fill ponds, mix concrete and water plants for his wife’s business and used the fire district’s vehicle, gasoline and EZ Pass while traveling statewide to conduct his wife’s business.
VanValkenburg, who also worked for Woodstock Landscaping and Excavating, is accused of defrauding the district of $20,755. As a fire district board commissioner, VanValkenburgh was prohibited from receiving any payment from the district. Instead, VanValkenburgh laundered payments through a relative who had a cleaning contract with the fire district, officials say.
“First, I want to thank all the constituents in the West Hurley Fire District who spoke up and brought this matter to my attention," Hurley Supervisor John Perry said in a press release. "I want to be clear that the West Hurley Fire District should not and will not be tarnished by these few individuals. The men and women who volunteer as our first responders are some of the best around. We need to look at this as an opportunity to form a renewed bond with the residents and the Fire District and this will only better West Hurley as a whole.”
Gutierrez, who stepped down as chief, is still serving as a captain. VanValkenburgh remains on the Board of Commissioners for the fire district.
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