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Norwood truck case delayed because of conflict of interest

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POTSDAM — The question of whether Norwood’s 8-ton weight limit on village streets applies to local businesses has been delayed as both Potsdam town justices recused themselves from the case to avoid a conflict of interest.

The case was brought before the Potsdam Town Court on Thursday.

The defendant, G. Michael Knowlton, was issued a summons for driving his heavy salt trucks on village roads in January.

Mr. Knowlton, owner of Knowlton & Son trucking, said he believes the 8-ton limit is illegally being applied to his business. He deliberately had been ignoring the law in hopes of taking his case to court.

Both town justices, James A. Mason and Samuel R. Charleson, served as St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies at the same time as Mr. Knowlton. Both recused themselves from Mr. Knowlton’s case to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

The case now will be sent to a St. Lawrence County Court judge, who will decide which court is best suited to try the case.

Mr. Knowlton’s lawyer, Thomas C. Finnerty of Canton, attempted to enter a not-guilty plea on Mr. Knowlton’s behalf to get the case moving, but Mr. Charleson said even that would be inappropriate.

“I think it’s best for everyone involved that I take absolutely no action whatsoever,” he said.

Mr. Finnerty said he understands the decision, but regrets the extra time added to the case.

“It just delays the proceedings, which is what we did not want to see,” he said.

Two of Mr. Knowlton’s customers also were charged with violating Norwood’s weight limit. Their cases were not affected by the justices’ decision regarding Mr. Knowlton. Real Pinsonneault, of Champlain, and Makary Mashuta, of Rexford, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Potsdam Town Court, and both cases will remain in Potsdam. Both are represented by Mr. Finnerty.

All three plan to argue that trucks going to and from Knowlton & Son count as local deliveries, which are allowed under village laws regardless of the 8-ton weight limit.

“The village has every right to post their roads,” Mr. Finnerty said, “But because Mr. Knowlton’s business is within village limits, the things coming in and out of his place constitute local delivery.”

Mr. Knowlton said he hopes the case will move quickly, but he understands the judges’ decision.

“You just have to let it go at its own pace,” he said.

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