Operators of failed fish farm business sue former head of aquaculture panel


ELKTON - A Cecil County family whose venture into fish farming failed when thousands of the fish died has filed a lawsuit charging its lender and the former chairman of the state's Aquaculture Advisory Committee with fraud.

Scott and Donna McCardell, whose dispute with state aquaculture officials was described last year in The Sun, claim in their lawsuit that Aberdeen fish farmer Douglas C. Burdette Jr., the former chairman of the state's aquaculture advisory panel, sold them a defective system of tanks and filters. The McCardells also charge that their lender, Central Maryland Farm Credit, knew of the problems but required the couple to use the Burdette system because Burdette owed the credit association money on another loan.

The McCardells, of Port Deposit, are seeking $10 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages in the lawsuit, filed Sept. 1 in Cecil County Circuit Court, said their lawyer, Michael D. Smigiel Sr.

They are joined as plaintiffs by Donna McCardell's parents, Ed and Lois Wilson, also of Port Deposit. Both couples used their homes as collateral to finance the business.

Officials from Maryland Farm Credit, which has merged with other lenders to become MidAtlantic Farm Credit, declined Friday to comment on the lawsuit. Attempts to reach Burdette for comment were unsuccessful.

When their business failed last year, the McCardells complained that state aquaculture officials steered them toward Burdette's system. The lawsuit names as a defendant Burdette in his "official capacity" as chairman of the state advisory panel.

No trial date has been set.

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