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Officials: Four resign after ex-jail guard's drug arrest

Officials: Four resign after ex-jail guard's drug arrest

More than a pound of pot confiscated, records show
Officials: Four resign after ex-jail guard's drug arrest
Former corrections officer David Garhartt leaves Rotterdam Town Court on Thursday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY -- A former Schenectady County jail guard has been arrested and four current jail guards have resigned, all stemming from an ongoing drug investigation by state police, officials said Thursday.

The man arrested, David Garhartt, was fired as a jail guard in 2015, and earlier in 2011.

Garhartt, 48, of Rotterdam, was charged after an early morning state police raid last Friday. He faces three felony counts related to a pound and a half of marijuana, as well as quantities of marijuana oil and marijuana candy, according to court documents.

A state police spokeswoman called the investigation ongoing and would not detail it further.

The raid took place just before 5:30 a.m. at 2040 Fiero Ave., a property that Garhartt owns, according to records.

The four people who resigned from the jail were identified by sources as two corrections officers and two sergeants. They were seen by state police during their investigation entering the residence owned by Garhartt. There was evidence of drug use by them, sources said.

No one other than Garhartt appears to have been arrested. 

Garhartt's arrest, however, led to a swift internal investigation by the Schenectady County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino confirmed Thursday.

"An incident was brought to our attention this past week. We investigated it and, as a result of that, we have had four individuals resign from here," Dagostino said.

Dagostino did not identify any of the four who resigned. 

Garhartt briefly appeared in Rotterdam Town Court Thursday, his second time before the court. His next appearance is scheduled for May. He is now free on $40,000 bond. He is represented by attorney Steven Kouray.

Kouray said after Thursday's appearance that the next step is for him to see the search warrant. Garhartt has not been able to formally enter a plea because he faces felonies.

"I just want to see what the search warrant is about, see what it says, what the basis is for it and go from there," Kouray said. 

Garhartt faces one count each of fourth-degree and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as second-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

He is accused of possessing four pounds of the marijuana candy, as well as 11 ounces of  marijuana oil in the form of cannibis vaping cartridges, along with the pound and a half of marijuana, authorities said. 

Union representatives could not be reached Thursday. 

Garhartt's arrest comes less than five months after he and his attorneys reached a $185,000 settlement in his federal lawsuit against Schenectady County related to his 2015 termination. 

Garhartt was originally terminated from the department in June 2011 after about a decade on the job over alleged purchases of small amounts of cocaine, sources said then. He faced no charges in that case. 

According to his federal lawsuit, Garhartt underwent drug rehabilitation and was rehired. 

The allegations that resulted in the lawsuit stemmed from 2015. Garhartt contended the county learned he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder while he served in the Marines and terminated him because of it. He was in the Marines from 1988 to 1992.

He sued under the American's with Disabilities Act and other statutes, alleging the county terminated him because of PTSD despite medical evidence that he was able to perform his job duties.

Garhartt filed suit in October 2016 and the case was settled in November, records show. The county admitted no wrongdoing and the settlement formally ended Garhartt's employment with the county.

The current allegations against Garhartt and the four officers who resigned also carries some parallels to a 2001 incident involving five Schenectady County corrections officers.

In that case, a jail guard was arrested outside a Glenville tavern with cocaine and charged with drug possession. He eventually told then-Schenectady County Sheriff Harry Buffardi that he had used cocaine with four other corrections officers. 

The jail guard was fired immediately. Buffardi also fired the other four, though one was reinstated on appeal.

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