The state attorney general’s office is seeking once again to shut down Hudson River Rafting Company, alleging that the company violated a court order by sending clients on whitewater trips without a licensed guide.
Assistant Attorney General G. Nicholas Garin says in court papers that the company and its owner, Patrick Cunningham, violated the order a month or so after resuming business this summer.
Last fall, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against Cunningham accusing him of running an unsafe business. He sought to shut Hudson River Rafting permanently, but state Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino ruled in May that Cunningham could resume operations under certain conditions, among them that he deploy only licensed rafting guides on trips on the upper Hudson River, including the Hudson Gorge.
On August 1, however, Forest Ranger Jason Scott saw one of Cunningham’s rafts on the Hudson captained by an unlicensed guide, according to an affidavit signed by Scott. The guide, Bruce Thomas, said he had been told by another Cunningham employee that he didn’t need a license where he put in. “He further stated in answer to my questions that Patrick Cunningham … knew that he was guiding without a license and knew where he had launched,” Scott said.
According to the affidavit, Thomas launched the raft well below the Hudson Gorge at a spot used as a takeout for trips through the gorge. However, the law still requires guides to have rafting licenses to run this part of the Hudson, according to Scott’s affidavit.
Garin argues that the incident “fits a pattern” of flouting the law. “It is not just [the law] that respondents ignore as inconvenient, it is also the authority of the Court that is disrespected when it gets in the way of doing business in respondents’ accustomed fashion,” Garin asserts.
At Garin’s request, Giardino scheduled a hearing for August 22 to consider whether Cunningham is guilty of contempt of court and whether Hudson River Rafting should be permanently shut down. However, the judge refused to issue a temporary order barring Cunningham and Hudson River Rafting from sponsoring whitewater trips on rivers where licensed guides are required.
Reached at his office in North Creek this afternoon, Cunningham said he has been deploying licensed guides on the Hudson and other whitewater rivers where required. He said he could not explain the attorney general’s latest allegation.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that the judge did issue an order shutting down the business before the August 22 hearing.
Photo by Phil Brown: Patrick Cunningham, right, with Joseph Brennan, one of his attorneys.