Former West Hurley fire company members plead guilty to official misconduct charges

According to a press release sent out from the New York State Comptroller’s office the afternoon of March 20, former West Hurley fire department chief David Gutierrez and current commissioner Michael “Bucky” VanValkenburgh, a former chairman for the West Hurley Fire District, each pleaded guilty in Hurley Town Court, Tuesday night, March 19, to official misconduct following their earlier arrests for using fire district resources to support Woodstock Landscaping & Excavating, a business belonging to Gutierrez’ wife.  

Gutierrez pleaded guilty Tuesday evening to official misconduct and petit larceny, and received a sentence of a two year conditional discharge, $10,000 fine and an agreement to leave the fire department for at least five years.

VanValkenburgh received the same sentence regarding discharge, fine, and agreement to leave the department, but only pleaded to official misconduct. Hurley Town Supervisor John Perry said on Wednesday, March 20, that according to VanValkenburgh’s sentencing agreement, and the West Hurley Fire District’s governing policies and procedures, he would have to be removed from the board of commissioners until his five year ban is completed.

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It was uncertain, as of press time, whether VanValkenburgh was going to resign his position on the five member West Hurley Fire District board of commissioners.

When first arrested on February 8 the two men were initially charged with abusing their authority and costing the district over $30,000 since 2012. Specifically, 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.

There are 4 comments

  1. Jim B

    Lots of stress on this job, Lets forget it and move on. Think of the good, not the bad, the good they have done, the many lives saved by our firemen is what counts.

    Too often media hypes the bad. i dont believe this story to be true, get the facts.

  2. Anonymous

    Jim B — they pleaded guilty, and the prosecutor accepted reduced charges to spare the taxpayer full trials. Their lawyers would never have allowed them to plead guilty if they hadn’t done what they were accused of doing, and that the prosecution had proof. They pleaded guilty. They’re admitting it is true. Why do you need to believe it’s made up? Do you know people who plead guilty to things they did not do?

    Yes, think about all the good they’ve done. But also think about all the harm they’ve done to a service that depends on its reputation. If you can’t trust a fire chief, whom can you trust? A couple of months ago, a fire chief, a firefighter, and a couple of retired cops were caught operating a drug ring. Both of these cases are extremely rare. But if the emergency services are to have the integrity needed to maintain the public support, and volunteerism necessary to carry out the mission, it’s a very bad idea to tell people “let’s just look aside from criminality.” That’s how the trouble starts. The service has to always be clear that there’s no space for this kind of thing. Firefighting is firefighting, and embezzlement is embezzlement. There can be no overlap between those two things.

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