ALBANY - The state Supreme Court Appellate Division's Third Judicial Department on Thursday fully reinstated two attorneys from Fulton and Montgomery counties who were previously suspended with stays.
In separate rulings, the appellate court reinstated Gloversville attorney J. Paul Kolodziej and Fort Plain attorney Richard P. Weinheimer to practice law after two-year suspensions that had been stayed.
The decision by the appellate judges on Kolodziej was on a petition previously filed by the Appellate Division's Committee on Professional Standards against the former 20-year attorney for the Fulton County Economic Development Corp. and Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. He also was volunteer chairman of the Fulton County Planning Board for many years.
Kolodziej, who has a private practice at 350 North Main St., pleaded guilty to tax fraud in 2010.
The Appellate Division on May 12, 2011, suspended the attorney from the practice of law for a period of two years and the suspension was conditionally stayed. His attorney - Scot W. Bush of Rensselaer - said Friday that with Thursday's decision, Kolodziej can move forward with his legal career with no strings attached.
"The suspension was stayed, but he was still allowed to practice law," Bush said. "What they did was they vacated his [stay] order and he's fully reinstated to practice law."
The appellate decision noted Bush had moved for termination of the stayed suspension and provided a supporting affidavit indicating that the conditions of the stay have been fully complied with. The Committee on Professional Standards didn't oppose the motion, which was granted by the appellate judges.
At the time of his original suspension, the court said it would stay the suspension if Kolodziej submitted documentation of the timely filing of his personal state and federal income tax returns due during the time of suspension and if he provided proof of payment of all state and federal income taxes due for 2002 to 2010 within 30 days of the date of the court's decision.
Kolodziej could have faced indictment on tax-evasion charges before he instead pleaded guilty in October 2010 in Gloversville City Court to one misdemeanor count of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud. He was fined $5,000. State Department of Taxation and Finance Acting Commissioner Jamie Woodward said at that time that Kolodziej admitted to failing to file timely state personal income tax returns for 2002 through 2008.
He originally was charged in January 2010 with two counts of criminal tax fraud and four counts of failing to file timely returns. Kolodziej could have faced up to seven years in prison if he had been convicted.
Woodward said after being notified of an investigation in 2009, Kolodziej filed all of his delinquent income tax returns and paid the tax, including penalties and interest, totaling more than $120,000.
The tax returns indicated Kolodziej earned more than $1.1 million from 2002-08 and owed the state $59,178 in taxes.
The Fulton County Economic Development Corp. previously filed a lawsuit against fired EDC executive Jeff Bray seeking at least $200,000 in legal fees the agency claims he wrongly provided Kolodziej, who also was named in the suit. That lawsuit is pending.
Kolodziej couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Weinheimer, who has a practice at 4 Canal St., Fort Plain, was suspended Oct. 27, 2011.
In his case, the Committee on Professional Standards originally ruled he handled a client's money improperly. He was found guilty of professional misconduct for improperly moving funds from a client's escrow account.
The case was given to a referee, who submitted a report stating Weinheimer's "misconduct was not motivated by larcenous intent," according to the ruling. The committee agreed with that assessment and agreed the misconduct did not violate the Code of Professional Responsibility, which was in effect at the time of the alleged misconduct in 2009.
Weinheimer submitted quarterly reports by a certified public accountant to the court on the escrow accounts he maintains for his clients to satisfy his stay order.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org