Judge in Saugerties dump case might have conflict

Karolys property at 1446 Route 212.

A potential conflict of interest for Saugerties Town Justice Chris Kraft in the matter of accused illegal dumpsite owner Joe Karolys caused the trial on misdemeanor charges that Karolys accepted dumping of construction and demolition debris on his three Saugerties properties outside of a court-mandated 7 a.m.-3 p.m. window to be moved to Woodstock Town Court. Now, it seems another conflict of interest may result in the trial having to be moved again.

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, Karolys was in Woodstock Town Court before Justice Richard Husted. At the outset of the proceeding, Husted made both Saugerties Town Attorney John Greco and Karolys’ lawyer Melvin T. Higgins aware of what Husted termed a possible conflict of interest that could carry the “appearance of impropriety.”

“It came to my attention, as far as public information in the newspaper, that there was a protest,” said Husted. “On Facebook, there was a picture posted with a group of people [holding picket signs] that was [posted] by the Woodstock Land Conservancy.”


Husted continued, “I volunteer with the Woodstock Land Conservancy…I have, through the years, mowed a path through the field…I don’t know the position that [the Conservancy has] in this case…Now, I bring this forth asking counsel if there is objection to my participating with the Woodstock Land Conservancy.”

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to [Karolys] about this,” said Higgins. “There are additional news publications, a lot of them motivated by the Woodstock Land Conservancy…My client [should] be given an opportunity to consider this. Respectfully, I don’t think that three minutes [to decide] are enough.”

Higgins also said that he believes local media coverage may limit his client’s ability to have a fair trial by jury.

“The adverse notoriety that my client has received would not allow me to get an impartial jury in this town. [Woodstock] has a singular reputation for wanting to do things that are ecologically sound.”

Greco disagreed, and asked that the court records reflect that “the people are ready for this trial.”

“I’ve been involved in this case for two years now…I frankly have never heard of the Woodstock Land Conservancy and they’ve never been involved with this case,” said Greco. “I don’t see any nexus between you presiding over this case and the Woodstock Land Conservancy [sharing that article or photo on their Facebook page.] We have no objection whatsoever to you continuing on this case.”

Pending a definitive response on whether Karolys objects to Husted’s presiding over the matter, Husted adjourned the case tentatively until Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 1:30 p.m. 

As the matter was discussed, Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. turned toward Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton, smirked and shook his head.

“We need a resolution to this, the residents that are being impacted need a resolution. This has been going on for so many months,” said Costello after court was adjourned. “The impacts continue and we think we’re right. It’s frustrating that we can’t get a court resolution to this issue.”

“This is just another sad stall tactic,” said resident Bill Ashmore of the events in court. “It’s going to continue on and on, that seems to be all we do…and the process continues to contaminate our soil.”

There are 22 comments

  1. Neil MacDonald Hickok

    The Karolys dirt operation is just like the all other dirt operations in Saugerties. None of them have permits. But Karolys is Greek, and a Trump supporter. If he was a goombah, and supported the crooked Democrats, everything would be okay. How do we know that? Because nobody’s going after any of the other operators, who are doing the same exact thing. Maybe HV1 should go and actually visit the sites, and see for themselves (in between beers and writing smear pieces).

    1. Guy DeGennaro

      Town officials waited 8 months after learning of the other similar operators to inspect them. In that time, they were able to clean up their properties. The code enforcement officer still found c&d materials on every other contractors property he inspected, but wrote no violations. HV1 has not ever written about these numerous other operations. If the government was genuinely concerned about the health and safety of the people, why are they not going after anyone else besides Karolys?

    2. Jeff D.

      No other “dirt operation” is bringing in soil from out of county that is contaminated with heavy metals and DDT, do yourself a favor and read up on DDT. My personal suggestion for you is “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.

      1. John LeBarron

        Jeff D., Your first sentence is written in pure ignorance. Unless you are God, there is no way you could possibly know the origin of every other “dirt operations” material on a day to day basis. Nor could you know the analytical components of said material. Furthermore, to suggest that materials from outside the county are automatically polluted is Ludacris.

        1. Jeff D.

          John, you’re right, but correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t the NYS DEC find heavy metals and DDT at the Karolys’ yard, all of which is coming from the city, Jersey, and Long Island?

  2. helen francello

    “The adverse notoriety that my client has received would not allow me to get an impartial jury in this town. [Woodstock] has a singular reputation for wanting to do things that are ecologically sound.”—-Hmmmm, is Mr. Higgins implying that his client does not want to do anything ecologically sound? Go figure.

  3. Stanley Hess

    Really cool that commenters get to imply alcoholism and use racial slurs in the comments section of a local publication. Way to go moderators. Way to always be on the ball.

    1. Peter Krauss

      Goombahs are a species of sentient Mushrooms from Nintendo’s Mario franchise. They first appeared in the NES video game Super Mario Bros. as the first enemy players encounter. If you interpret that as an ethnic slur, that is on you.

  4. John LeBarron

    There are literally dozens of contractors across the county and hundreds/(if not thousands) across the state that handle the same type of material and have stockpiles of it in their yards. For some reason, all the focus is on one man in Saugerties. The town admitted it waited over 8 months to inspect other similar businesses, and at that point found the same types of material at all the other business, but made excuses as to not write violations to these other contractors. If there were a genuine concern of pollution, why only go after one person in the crowd.

    1. Steven L. Fornal

      Your above comment in response to Jeff D is informative: ” Unless you are God, there is no way you could possibly know the origin of every other “dirt operations” material on a day to day basis. Nor could you know the analytical components of said material.”

      Yet, in this comment you seem to assume the role of God: “There are literally dozens of contractors across the county and hundreds/(if not thousands) across the state that handle the same type of material and have stockpiles of it in their yards.”

      You don’t consider the charges against Mr. Karolys include bringing in dump material from out of county which is expressly prohibited in the Town of Saugerties. I understand why that is: Because you want to defend the indefensible. However, you really should stick to the facts of the cases against Mr. Karolys.

    2. Peter Krauss

      All comments in “defense” of Karolys (which are written by himself or friends) are interesting in that they don’t really plead innocent, they say “everyone else is doing it, why are you picking on this fine upstanding businessman.” But the fact is that any other place in Saugerties that has accepted c&d fill has done it on a much, much smaller scale. One does need to be God to know this. Saugerties is a rather large town in size but it is well settled. Neighbors would complain if there were other properties hosting trucks dumping waste all day for months, just as they did in this case. The town is taking action because of constant complaints, not because they’re picking on some individual for (no reason really given). And show me all the other properties that got raided by the DEC whose testing turned up a bunch of crap… I’m sorry but that only happens for large illegal operations.

      1. John LeBarron

        I don’t personally know Mr Karoly or any of the other contractors in Saugerties, nor do I live in that Town. However, I am in the trucking business and familiar with this type of material, which made me aware of this situation in your town. If the law states that file material can not be brought in from out of town, the law needs to be applied equally, to everyone. The size of one’s operations does not matter. Saying Karoly is violating the law and no one else is is like saying someone who drinks and drives once or twice a week is better than the guy who drinks and drives everyday. Both are still violating the law and should be charged as such. As far as contaminants only being found on Karoly’s property, the town never tested any other properties. To use the same analogy, it’s like giving a breathalyzer test to only one of the drunks in a bar room. The Town should be testing every contractors fill, everyone may be surprised what they find.

  5. Don Canard

    we absolutely positively CAN NOT have decisions being made which are ecologically sound, especially NOT on a consistent basis. Where would this country come to if we did that ? #MAGA/#KAG/#KAKA (Keep America Korrupt/Amoral). Oh, by the way, I have a suspicion Karolys is a Hungarian name, not Greek, how bout it ? (Not that ethnicity matters, we have plenty of corrupt waste products named Smith, Jones and Trump.)

  6. Derk

    The Property Maintenance Code that is enforced by the building department requires that all homes and properties be maintained and be free of any issues. For example, the code does not allow homes to fall in disrepair in any way; does not allow the grounds around a home to be unkempt and does not allow any accumulation of refuse on the grounds. I think it is safe to say that with the Property Maintenance Code, a majority of properties can be found to be in violation at any given time. Now, add to that, all of the other codes and regulations that a town building/zoning department with a small workforce is obligated to enforce and you get an impossible task for any town. The only effective way to deal with this reality is to enforce on a complaint basis and to use reasonable, experienced and educated judgment in those efforts.

  7. NO one special

    Goombah is slang for people of Italian descent, mainly in the United States, with several related connotations to the Mafia or gangs of Italian or Italian-American … Last I looked in Saugerties , it is mostly dutch, german descendants?????

  8. Steven L. Fornal

    Many towns require an official complaint to begin enforcement in order to have a witness on record should the case go to court.

    As for not enforcing other instances of the dumping code, from what I’ve read in published articles, the other instances mentioned by karolys and his attorney are situations that have NOT allowed outside material to be dumped; only local per the code.

  9. Bill H

    It is telling that by and large the folks defending poor, victimized Karolys, who has clearly broken the law by bringing in toxic C and D material from out of town, are arguing for MORE government regulation of folks engaged in this type of business. This bunch is usually conservative and usually against increased government regulation, but in defense of poor Karolys they are 1) willing to sell out their fellow businesspeople to said oppressive government, and 2) pushing
    for increased government regulation in the name of fairness. That’s how we know Karolys’s friends have no ethical ground to stand on. In this case. They certainly do not have legal ground. That has been well established in these court proceedings.
    Karolys is not being picked on. Instead, consider that it might have a lot to do with the amazing conspicuousness of his illegal behavior literally a few feet from the edge of the major thoroughfare that is route 212 between Saugerties and Woodstock. That is reckless, foolish business that is going to lead to his conviction and subsequent bankruptcy. Karolys apologists, you have to admit, it has been pretty hard for government to ignore, don’t you think.
    Also, you might want to hold more closely to your conservative values when arguing for Karolys’s rights.

  10. Paul McCleary

    Bill H, whoever you are, if you have something to say, don’t hide your name. I don’t think anyone who you claim is “defending” Karolys is in favor of more government regulations. People, including myself, want the laws to be balanced and fair. If it is OK for for 99 people it should be ok for 100. However, the law enforcement people should not be selecting 1 out of the 100 to pick on. That man is out on the main 212 highway, for everyone to see, he’s not hiding anything. It’s been out in front of everyone’s eyes to see for several years now. There was not a problem until an idiot neighbor who’s family used to own the property got jealous. If Karolys had long family ties in the town, what he is doing would be like a fish in the water.

    1. Bill H

      Paul M, why do you need to know my name? The reason why someone like me would not disclose his full name is that I don’t trust that all members of this community would behave well toward me, and that I worry that my business would be negatively (commence angry Google searches for a Saugerties business owner named Bill H). I am not afraid, but I am smart.
      What you argue above is not what is generally being argued in the comments posted in the various articles related to Karolys’s crimes. I stand by my characterization of Karolys in these threads. He is not being picked on. He chose to violate the law. He chose to fight this fight, thereby bringing himself all this attention. He and Higgins presented the argument that others are doing it too and not being held accountable, which, by the way, is no defense at all. Furthermore, Karolys produced the names of businesses that he claimed were doing the same thing as him. Those were investigated and found to be nothing like what Karolys was doing. Since then many Karolys supports have argued very vaguely that these same crimes are being committed all over Saugerties and Ulster County. If so, I agree that the law ought to go after them, too. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. But such unfairness would NOT mean that Karloys should allowed to continue breaking the law. That is what is laughable.

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