New charges filed in supreme court cite continued violations
COPAKE—The weather isn’t the only thing heating up around here. The State Attorney General’s Office is fired up about Salvatore Cascino’s numerous violations of state law and regulations over the past few years and has been filing a storm of legal papers aimed at putting Mr. Cascino in the hot seat.
Mr. Cascino, 75, is a serial scofflaw who has a 17-year history of violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating.
A convicted felon, Mr. Cascino was found guilty of both civil and criminal contempt in 2009. He also pleaded guilty to one count of felony second degree offering a false instrument on behalf of his corporations as part of a plea deal in Albany County Supreme Court in June 2012.
Over the past two weeks State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office has filed a stack of paperwork with state Supreme Court in Columbia County regarding a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) consent decree Mr. Cascino signed and agreed to in 2007.
Mr. Cascino’s companies, Copake Valley Farms, LLC, and Lackawanna Properties, LLC, are named as defendants in the suit along with him.
The consent decree came about after the DEC found violations of wetlands, stream protection, storm water permitting and solid waste laws stemming from Mr. Cascino’s construction and dumping activities on his 300-acre property along the east side of State Route 22, called Copake Valley Farm. The state and Mr. Cascino entered into the consent decree, which provided terms for the monetary penalties Mr. Cascino would pay and how he was going to fix things.
One of Mr. Cascino’s many glaringly illegal acts was the construction of a 30-foot wide steel bridge over the Noster Kill, a protected trout stream.
The work disturbed the bed and bank of the stream and Mr. Cascino did all the construction and damage without a DEC permit.
The bridge was built so Mr. Cascino could more conveniently illegally dump tractor trailer loads of construction and demolition debris at the site, according to state’s court documents.
Because the state was concerned that allowing the bridge to remain open would “encourage further dumping of waste material by truck, the state insisted that the bridge be permanently barricaded” in the decree.
In a related lawsuit brought by the Town of Copake, Mr. Cascino was ordered to undertake remedial measures to correct town code violations, including submission of a plan to DEC for removal of the bridge.
In its most recent filing, the attorney general’s office asks the court to find Mr. Cascino guilty of both civil and criminal contempt because officials have discovered and documented since September 2014 that Mr. Cascino has removed the permanent barricades across the bridge and instead has installed gates that are sometimes unlocked to allow trucks through.
“The evidence showing defendants’ continued use of the bridge despite the permanent barrier requirement in the decree and despite the order in the town’s case requiring removal of the bridge satisfies this element of contempt,” the lawsuit contends.
The show cause order says Mr. Cascino will be found in criminal and civil contempt for violating the DEC consent decree if he doesn’t re-install the permanent barriers within seven days and keep them there until the bridge is removed. It calls for Mr. Cascino to be incarcerated unless he complies and fined $1,000 for contempt. It also requires him to reimburse the state attorneys’ fees for the motion. The order was signed by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols July 17 and calls for Mr. Cascino to appear in court before the judge August 21 to make his case.
The summons filed in State Supreme Court July 23 by the attorney general on behalf of the Department of Transportation (DOT) describes five locations along State Route 22 where Mr. Cacsino has erected or installed fencing, gates, a boulder, access road improvements, stone retaining walls, various types of vegetation, signs, culverts, drainage structures and cement brick pillars—all on state property and without permits. The violations date back to “on or before June 1, 2009.”
Though Mr. Cascino has been advised of the violations and encroachments within the state right-of-way by DOT on numerous occasions and told to remove them all, he has failed and/or refused to remove any of them, the court document says.
DOT demands the following judgment against Mr. Cascino, that he:
*Pay $136,875 in penalties, plus interest through July 20, plus continuing damages thereafter at a minimum of $25/day plus interest for along as the violations continue
*Remove of all the structures found to encroach on the state highway right-of-way and restore the areas to DOT standards and payment of $250,000 in damages
*Be permanently enjoined from any further interference with the state’s property.
The attorney general calls for an answer to his complaint on behalf of the DOT within 30 days. “Should you fail to appear or answer, judgment will be taken against you by default for the full relief requested in the complaint. Trial is desired in the County of Columbia,” the document says.
In the meantime, no decision has been rendered by Judge Nichols on two orders to show cause why Mr. Cascino should not be held in contempt of court filed by the Town of Copake. Court proceedings on those motions wrapped up December 11, 2013 after five days of testimony and legal wrangling.
The town, represented by attorney Victor Meyers, presented evidence of Mr. Cascino’s continued failure to comply with court orders in an earlier contempt case, in which the judge directed Mr. Cascino to remove the steel bridge, a stone wall and the illegal fill he dumped in and along the Noster Kill. Mr. Cascino was also required to restore the farm stand to its 2006 condition, that is, to undo all the construction work he did on it because he failed to get a building permit for the work in the first place.
Final legal submissions were due in these cases by February 5, 2014. Additional orders to show cause filed by Attorney Meyers on Copake’s behalf in connection with three illegal construction projects last year have not even been scheduled for court hearings.
An emailed request for comment on the matters to Mr. Cascino’s attorney Brian Gardner was not answered.
To contact Diane Valden email