ELIZABETHTOWN - The attorney for Black Brook property owner Leroy Douglas is firing back at the Adirondack Council after reports indicated that Douglas had previously attempted to sell a portion of his property to the state in 2000 and then alleged that environmentalists and state officials colluded in an attempt to drive him off of his land.
Documents released Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation indicated that Leroy Douglas offered to sell the 139-acre Bainbridge parcel to the state.
The revelation led Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan to further question Douglas's credibility, arguing the documents constituted proof the Black Brook landowner wasn't being pressured to sell by anyone and that a $2.1 million suit against the green group is baseless.
But according to Douglas's attorney Matt Norfolk of Lake Placid, attempts made to sell the small parcel a decade ago have nothing to do with the lawsuit, which concerns other parts of the 3,500-acre Silver Lake parcel.
Norfolk said that recent reports from WNBZ and North Country Public Radio suggesting that the lawsuit filed by Douglas involved a 139-acre piece of land west of Silver Lake known as the Bainbridge Property, were off target. He said the property in question, one involved in past Adirondack Park Agency enforcement proceedings and is at issue in the pending civil lawsuit against The Adirondack Council, is part of a different, 3,500-acre tract of land on Silver Lake.
In 2007, the APA initiated enforcement proceedings against Douglas for what the agency suspected may have been illegal work on a road that bordered a wetland and runs through the expansive property.
The APA was in negotiations with Douglas, but then undertook the enforcement proceedings.
Norfolk contends this is a result of the Adirondack Council's influence at the APA, specifically naming Council chairman Brian Ruder, who happens to own property next to Douglas' property.
"The lawsuit pending against The Adirondack Council, Mr. Ruder and Hawkeye Conservationists is premised on allegations that the defendants intentionally and wrongfully interfered with the settlement agreement entered into between APA and Mr. Douglas," Norfolk said. "But, Mr. Douglas' past intentions to sell the Bainbridge Property are not at issue in the pending lawsuit, and have nothing to do with the alleged acts of defendants supporting Mr. Douglas' claim, which we intend to prove in a court of law."
Norfolk has gained access to numerous emails and correspondences from Council board members to APA commissioners and staff. These memos urge the recipients to take action against Douglas.
Sheehan said the Council is considering filing a counter-suit against Douglas and his attorney.
Norfolk countered that the credibility question will be decided in a court of law.
"Any issues of credibility of Mr. Douglas or the defendants named in the lawsuit, including members of the Adirondack Council, will be addressed in court through the normal litigation process," Norfolk said.