ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — One of the development companies owned by Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino was hit with a felony charge a decade ago for failure to detect asbestos in a Syracuse bowling alley he was renovating and eventually razed.
Paladino said Thursday a licensed inspector’s mistake in the initial inspection and an overzealous federal prosecutor turned what should have been a civil matter into a criminal charge against one of his companies. Paladino wasn’t charged in the case involving the commercial property in Syracuse.
Paladino said asbestos was removed properly once discovered and the building was converted into retail space. He says his company acted responsibly. The criminal case, as a violation of the Clean Air Act, was resolved with a plea bargain.
“Yet another dark and disturbing revelation about Mr. Paladino’s judgment and business practices. Once again he has lots of questions to answer,” said David James, spokesman for Rick Lazio, Paladino’s Republican primary opponent.
A 2000 Buffalo News story, however, quoted federal prosecutors who said at the time that Paladino wasn’t implicated and the charge involved oversights, not intentionally committed crimes. An environmental crimes prosecutor, Craig Benedict, was quoted as saying, “We’re not alleging that (Paladino) was aware these activities were going on. … He personally did not have criminal responsibility, but his corporations did.”
“Of course the career politicians are attempting to smear me and derail our campaign,” said Paladino, who polls show is gaining on Lazio as Tuesday’s primary approaches. “Ten years ago, the government overreacted to an error by one of my employees. While tearing down an old bowling alley, a hidden ceiling was found which contained asbestos. This was not detected in a survey performed over one year previous.”
Paladino signed the plea bargain to a felony charge. The sentence was a $500,000 fine for the company.
The agreement stated the company was guilty of “failing to perform a thorough inspection required prior to demolition of a commercial property that contained a jurisdictional amount of regulated asbestos containing material,” according to court records.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)