LOCKPORT – It’s going to cost Patrick McFall a lot of money to stay out of jail.
Jury selection was to have begun today in his second trial on charges of violating the city’s property maintenance code by not cleaning up the wreckage of his partly collapsed dry cleaning shop, but McFall decided to plead guilty as charged last week.
Under terms of a settlement with the city, McFall must pay $5,000 by the time of his City Court sentencing Nov. 15. That’s a down payment on the money he owes the city: $38,125 in delinquent city and school taxes, $668 in water and sewer bills, and $4,116 in county property taxes – a total of $42,909.
Defense attorney Jon R. Wilson said that after the down payment, McFall will have to pay at least $200 a month until the taxes are paid in full.
Based on McFall making the $5,000 payment, City Judge Thomas M. DiMillo has agreed not to send him to jail, Deputy Corporation Counsel Matthew E. Brooks said.
After a previous conviction in a nonjury trial, DiMillo sentenced McFall, 41, to seven months in jail. He served five days before Wilson’s father, Jon L. Wilson, successfully argued that McFall had been entitled a jury trial, a point no one noticed at the time. The conviction was vacated June 19.
Next month, DiMillo could give McFall a one-year conditional discharge or three years of probation, Brooks said. During those periods, McFall would risk jail if he missed a monthly payment.
The money he still owes after the period of supervision would be converted into a civil judgment, and the city could garnishee McFall’s wages or seize his assets if he doesn’t pay it all off, Brooks said.
“There’s no reason he should get off scot-free for something every citizen has to pay,” Brooks said.
McFall owned Peters Dry Cleaning, 316 Willow St., part of which collapsed Dec. 15. McFall was cited for not cleaning up the pile of bricks, which McFall said he couldn’t do because the city insisted on an asbestos survey.
“Money has always been an issue for him. He didn’t have $50,000 to clean up the asbestos. He didn’t have $40,000 to pay the back taxes, thus the payment plan,” Wilson said.
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said he expects the state Department of Environmental Conservation to stick McFall with the tab for cleaning up the property, which is listed as a Class 2 inactive hazardous waste site because of dry-cleaning chemicals poured onto the ground decades ago.
“We’re working with the DEC to clean it up and take it down,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. “We’re going to start a foreclosure process.”
Ottaviano said the city intends to eventually take ownership of the land but won’t do so unless it’s cleaned up.
McFall transferred the property earlier this year to Eddie Person, a city resident whom Ottaviano believes had no idea what was happening with the deal. Person owes $2,691 on this year’s school taxes, the City Treasurer’s Office said.
Ottaviano said Person has hired an attorney, Brian J. Hutchison, to try to cancel the transaction. Ottaviano said it might take a year before the transaction and the demolition are completed. Then the city would be left owning a vacant lot in a residential neighborhood.