LOCKPORT – A judge has canceled Patrick S. McFall’s transfer of the contaminated former Peters Dry Cleaning in Lockport to a man who said he was illiterate.
The March 1 order from State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. returns the Willow Street property to McFall, but apparently not for long.
City Treasurer Michael E. White said this week, in an email released by Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano, that he intends to foreclose on the site by midyear, leading to a state Department of Environmental Conservation cleanup and demolition of the half-wrecked store, located in a residential neighborhood.
McFall sold the Peters site June 7 for $1 to Eddie Person of Lockport, a convicted drug user who later said he was illiterate and had no idea what he was getting into.
Person’s attorney, Brian J. Hutchison, said Person should be in the clear from being stuck with the cost of the expected Superfund cleanup of the site, but that’s not certain.
“It’s not cut and dried, but it does help,” Hutchison said. “He was in title. Voiding the deed doesn’t bind the state or federal government [to ignore it].”
Part of the brick building collapsed Dec. 15, 2011, leading to a long round of litigation against McFall for building code violations stemming from failure to clean up the site.
The city and the state insisted on an asbestos investigation, which McFall resisted for months.
In June, McFall was convicted of code violations and sentenced to seven months in jail by City Judge Thomas M. DiMillo.
Five days later, the conviction was canceled after DiMillo admitted McFall should have had a jury trial, and McFall was released.
Besides the contamination caused by dry cleaning chemicals spilled on the ground by previous owners – the store is listed by the state as an inactive hazardous waste site – McFall owed the city about $43,000 in back taxes and water bills. The deed transferred those obligations to Person.
Person hired Hutchison, who sued McFall in late October to cancel the deed. Hutchison said he checked academic records and the reports of some people who knew Person from drug court to confirm he couldn’t read or write.
Kloch gave Person the victory on a “default judgment,” because McFall didn’t contest the suit officially.
McFall didn’t return a call seeking comment Friday, but in a Feb. 20 court filing he denied Person’s allegations and thought he had a lawyer to handle the case for him.
That attorney, Jon R. Wilson, said that although he represented McFall in Housing Court, he was never retained for the State Supreme Court case over the deed.
“There was no admission on [McFall’s] part of any wrongdoing,” Hutchison said.
In November, McFall agreed to settle the housing case by paying the city $36,877 with $5,000 up front and $200 a month thereafter.
“We had assurances from the violation case that the city wasn’t going to pursue any further charges,” Wilson said.