By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO September 20, 2005 In a major move which came without public warning, a Sullivan County grand jury unleashed 42 criminal counts 24 of them felonies against former Sullivan County Department of Public Works Commissioner Peter Lilholt and suspended Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Phillip Nicoletti on Thursday in a sealed indictment at the Sullivan County Court.
Judge Frank LaBuda removed himself from the case due to a longtime association with Lilholt including a shared membership in a local hunting club.
Judge Burton Ledina took over immediately after Lilholt and Nicoletti pleaded not guilty.
Lilholt was accompanied by his attorney Mike McGuire, while Nicolettis attorney, Jonathan Lovett, was not present. The two were supposed to appear again Friday in front of Ledina, but Lilholt could not attend, so Ledina postponed the matter.
Both Lilholt and Nicoletti were arrested and released without bail. They are set to be arraigned this Thursday at the Sullivan County Courthouse at 9 a.m. in front of Ledina.
The list of charges include:
1 count of grand larceny in the third degree Class D felony
1 count of defrauding the government - Class E Felony
3 counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree Class E felony
3 counts of criminal possession of stolen property Class E felony
8 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree Class E felony
8 counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree Class E felony
8 counts of official misconduct Class A misdemeanor
5 counts of petty larceny Class A misdemeanor
5 counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree Class A misdemeanor
The items alleged to have been stolen total over $6,000 in value and include:
(2) High pressure washers
(2) Parts washers
(1) John Deere Back Pack Blower
(4) 2 lbs. rolls of wire
(2) 900V Spedglas welding helmets
(2) SP135 Mig Lincoln welders
(2) brushes and hoses
(1) Micrometer set with anvils and bore gauge
(1) 4-foot Howse 3-pt box blade rake
(1) 3 pt. 54 Rotary Tiller
Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen said his investigation is not over yet. He has been working in concert with the New York State Police extensively and is looking at other matters involving the Department of Public Works, although he could not go into detail.
I had originally felt that I would wait for the disciplinary hearings to be completed, said Lungen about his actions.
However, he believed that process had been dragged out longer than it ever should have. The hearings began approximately three months ago, he remarked, with no end in sight. Lungen said they only should have lasted a couple of days.
The hearings officer [Michael Wittenberg a labor relations consultant] doesnt take control of the matter. . . . It is just dragging on, said Lungen.
DPW Chief Fiscal Officer Amy Winters and Director of Parks, Recreation and Beautification Richard Caraluzzo remain suspended with pay by the county for their alleged involvement in two break-ins to the county personnel office and the confiscation of confidential documents, as well as allegedly attempting to blackmail Sullivan County Legislator Kathleen LaBuda into saving their jobs.
Robert Trotta, Director of Engineering for the county, has been named as being involved with one of the forays into the personnel office but has yet to face any disciplinary action.