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What you need to know for 01/21/2017

Halfmoon town official resigns over disputed land sale

Halfmoon town official resigns over disputed land sale

Halfmoon’s deputy town attorney abruptly resigned Wednesday after questions were raised over a serie

Halfmoon’s deputy town attorney abruptly resigned Wednesday after questions were raised over a series of land deals he signed off on last year.

Matthew Chauvin, the town’s part-time deputy attorney for six years, tendered his resignation in a succinct letter addressed to Supervisor Kevin Tollison. The move came after Town Attorney Lyn Murphy investigated a series of land sales in which Halfmoon sold seven properties to local developer Charles E. Hoffman.

“[Chauvin] offered his letter of resignation based upon the information he gave and based upon my discussions with him,” Tollison said.

All of the properties were land the town owned to operate its well system, which was taken offline in 2008, when the town connected to the county water system.

Tollison said the probe into the 2013 property sales started after a town resident raised concerns about three weeks ago. He said the report prepared by Murphy suggests no wrongdoing by Chauvin, but that the town will need to take some action to remedy several errors.

“There appears to be some questions that need to be answered and some corrective action that will need to be taken,” he said Wednesday.

For instance, Tollison said, seven properties were transferred but the deals included only five section-block-lot numbers. He said two of the properties were located in neighboring Clifton Park but owned by Halfmoon.

“Clearly, there was an error made,” he said. “Clearly, the error needs to be corrected.”

Tollison said the total sale price of the seven parcels was about $30,000, though he wasn’t sure of the exact acreage moved in the deal. Some of the parcels, however, appear to have sold for drastically less than their assessed value, according to county records.

About 2.5 acres located on Sitterly Road was sold to Hoffman for $7,500 last year. This year, the land known as the Twin Lakes Well Site was valued at $88,065, according to the tentative assessment.

Tollison said some of the discrepancy could fall with the old water infrastructure still located on the properties. The Sitterly Road property, for example, has a 408-square-foot building and a chain link fence left over from the well system.

“These decommissioned well sites, there’s a certain dollar value to remove the infrastructure there,” he said.

In his resignation letter, Chauvin — the son of former town attorney and state Supreme Court Justice Robert Chauvin — said his leaving office is in the interest of the town. He also cited “recent mischaracterizations put forth in the press regarding the transfer of the decommissioned well properties.”

“Although I adamantly deny any intentional wrongdoing in this matter, I believe my resignation is in the best interest of the town,” he wrote.

Reached later Wednesday, Chauvin said he never negotiated the deal for the properties and signed off on them for the town only after disclosing his conflict of interest. (The attorney representing Hoffman was a partner at the law firm of Ianiello Anderson, where Chauvin is employed full-time.)

Chauvin said Frank Tironi Jr., director of the town’s Water Department, negotiated the deals with Hoffman. He said he had no part in determining the sale price for any of the property sold to Hoffman.

“I was advised by them in writing about what they agreed to, but I was not part of the negotiation,” he said.

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