State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis may have ruled in Jim McCulley’s favor in the Old Mountain Road dispute, but McCulley still wants him off the case.
McCulley’s lawyer, Matthew Norfolk of Lake Placid, filed a motion Tuesday asking Grannis to recuse himself for engaging in in “ex-parte” communications about the case with the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Park Agency, both of which are seeking permission to intervene in the legal controversy. They want Grannis to reconsider the decision.
This spring, Grannis ruled that the state never legally closed the Old Mountain Road, which runs between Keene and North Elba in the Sentinel Range Wilderness. He dismissed a ticket issued to McCulley for driving a pickup truck on part of the road.
After the decision, Brian Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council, and Curt Stiles, chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, wrote letters to Grannis expressing concern that the ruling calls into question the status of other old roads in the public Forest Preserve.
Norfolk contends that he should have received copies of these letters. State law forbids communications between parties in a legal matter unless all parties are privy to them. Communications that violate this rule are referred to as “ex-parte” communications.
McCulley’s lawyer not only wants Grannis to recuse himself, but he also is demanding that the requests from the council and APA to join the proceeding be denied.
Grannis spokesman Yancey Roy declined to comment on the motion. APA spokesman Keith McKeever also said he could not comment immediately.
Marc Gerstman, the council’s lawyer, pointed out that the council was not a party to the case when Brian Houseal wrote his letter to Grannis. “There is no ex-parte issue here,” he said.
McCulley argues that DEC and the council have “an incestuous relationship” and that Houseal’s letter “planted a seed” in Grannis’s mind shortly before the council filed its request to intervene.