The former West Hurley Fire District chief and a current fire commissioner were both arrested today 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 and arraigned in Hurley Town Court. Gutierrez, who stepped down as chief is still serving as a captain.
VanValkenburgh remains on the Board of Commissioners for the fire district.
"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 will be held accountable."
"I would like to acknowledge the professionalism of Comptroller DiNapoli’s team. It is largely through their efforts that we are able to bring this matter into the light and proceed with a prosecution," District Attorney Holley Carnright said.
Hurley Supervisor John Perry stated, "First, I want to thank all the constituents in the West Hurley Fire District who spoke up and brought this matter to my attention. I would like to also thank the State Comptroller and Ulster County DA Carnright's office for their time and due diligence dealing with this matter. Lastly, 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."
Former chief Gutierrez, with VanValkenburgh’s assistance, allegedly used the fire district water tanker for his wife’s Woodstock Landscaping & Excavating business. 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 E-ZPass while traveling statewide to conduct his wife’s business.
VanValkenburgh, who also worked for Woodstock Landscaping & Excavating, allegedly defrauded the district of $20,755. As a fire district board commissioner, VanValkenburgh was barred from receiving any payment from the district. Instead, VanValkenburgh laundered payments through a relative, who had a cleaning contract with the fire district.
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