Top-Ranking Hudson Valley Fire Officials Plead Guilty
A former Hudson Valley fire chief and current commissioner were accused of abusing their power and taking over $30,000 from their local fire department.
On Tuesday in Hurley Town Court, the West Hurley Fire District’s former chief and a fire commissioner pleaded guilty to official misconduct following their March arrests for using fire district resources to support the former chief wife’s Woodstock Landscaping & Excavating business.
Former chief David Gutierrez and Michael “Bucky” VanValkenburgh, a current fire commissioner, were initially charged for allegedly abusing their authority and costing the district over $30,000 since 2012.
Gutierrez was accused of using the fire district water tanker to fill ponds, mix concrete and water plants and used a fire district vehicle to travel for the business.
VanValkenburgh, who also worked for Woodstock Landscaping & Excavating, was initially accused of defrauding the district of $20,755 by laundering payments through a relative, who had a cleaning contract with the fire district.
“Once again, the excellent work of Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright and his staff have brought another important corruption case to completion and set an example for the public that abuse of their resources will not be tolerated,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a press release.
Gutierrez pleaded guilty to official misconduct and petit larceny, VanValkenburgh pleaded guilty to official misconduct. As part of their plea deal, both agreed to a two-year conditional discharge, a $10,000 fine and to leave the fire department for at least five years.
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