Historian accused of stealing coffeemaker

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County Historian Peter C. Betz stole a Keurig coffeemaker from the county office building where he works and replaced it with another one, city police said.

Betz, also a Perth town councilman, was charged with petit larceny, a misdemeanor, after police received a complaint from the office of Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira, police said Friday.

Police said Betz, 70, of 178 Noonan Road, Perth, was charged at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“We learned that Mr. Betz had replaced a second coffee unit with the one that was stolen from the grand jury room,” Police Lt. David Gilbo said Friday.

Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan on Friday said he knew about Betz’s arrest because Betz contacted him.

He said Betz didn’t indicate whether he will resign from his seat on the Town Board.

“It’s kind of shocking and surprising,” Fagan stated.

Police said Betz took the coffeemaker from the county grand jury room in the basement of the Fulton County Office Building, 223 W. Main St., at 3:30 p.m. April 9.

The item was a Keurig commercial-use coffeemaker that police valued at about $125.

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said Friday that Betz has been suspended from his position as historian.

Betz, a retired Fulton-Montgomery Community College educator, earns $6,134 annually in the county historian position he has held since January 2006.

Gilbo said there was no misunderstanding between Betz – whose county historian office is down the hall from the grand jury room – and Sira’s office.

“I believe it was a straight theft and obviously a misjudgment,” the detective said. “I think it was not a mistake.”

Gilbo said an employee in Sira’s office noticed the Keurig commercial-use coffeemaker was missing from the grand jury room one day. The employee checked with other employees in Sira’s office and with people who had keys to the room – such as Stead – to determine if the unit was innocently missing. After that, a staff member from Sira’s office later noticed the unit had been replaced by another Keurig residential-use coffeemaker.

Sira’s office then notified city police, and Gilbo said that was when he started an investigation.

Betz had no comment about his arrest Friday. He said his attorney is Michael Albanese of Gloversville, who couldn’t be reached Friday.

Betz said he has been planning to retire and move to Catskill,?Greene County.

Stead said the Board of Supervisors likely will discuss the personnel matter in executive session at 1 p.m. Monday at the County Office Building.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron, chairman of the Economic Development & Environment Committee, which oversees Betz’s office, on Friday referred questions to city police.

Gilbo said Betz will be arraigned on the charge at 9 a.m. May 28 in City Court.

Gilbo said a special prosecutor – Montgomery County District Attorney James E. “Jed” Conboy – was named to the case. Conboy couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com