Several city council members have listened to the serendipitously recorded audiotapes that bolster former city employee Andrew Dapolite’s claims that the city manager and his RyeTV boss instructed him to lie about the filming of a workshop session in 2012.
The revelation of the recordings and recent resurrection of the Dapolite issue led council to question “an employee” involved in the accusations, council member Joe Sack told the public during Wednesday night’s council meeting.
“This evening, before this meeting we interviewed one of the people involved, informally,” Sack said during the public city council meeting, adding that he felt the meeting should have been on the record.
The mayor and corporation counsel interrupted Sack to tell him he cannot divulge the information discussed during executive session.
Sack’s comments came after Rye resident Richard Slack called for the council to conduct an investigation into Dapolite’s year-old accusation that City Manager Scott Pickup lied and instructed him to lie in light of the recent Rye Golf Club investigation findings.
“The Rye Golf Club report found that the city manager lied to the public when he said that the relationship with RM staffing had been vetted by legal council,” Slack said. The council’s investigation summary does state that City Manager Scott Pickup said that the relationship had been vetted and later admitted he knew it was untrue. He claimed he told the public that in order to “calm everyone down.”
“It is more than reasonable that the city council will want to know whether there was in fact a pattern and culture of lying to the public,” Slack said.
Slack agreed with Tony Piscionere’s “assertion” from last week that “the city council has created a perception that it does not care if city officials lie.”
Four council members, in addition to Sack, responded to Slack. Councilwoman Catherine Parker said “I do not condone lying,” and that she had listened to the tapes. She considers the council’s recent actions to be the start of an investigation “in the right direction.”
Killian said they are looking into it and asks for the public’s patience while they figure out all sides to the issue. “I reject the notion that the city council condones lying,” she said.
Jovanivich said that other city employees feel under siege because of comments made by the public. He indicated some employees feel “they’re the target” and the council does not stick up for “them.” “They are there to suffer in silence,” he said.
“They find serendipitous taping to be morally repugnant, horrifying, terrifying, base, those are just some of the words I’ve heard from people that work at this place, day in and day out. Their moment may not come. This council may never stand up for them,” Jovanivich said.
He indicated he hoped the council would stand up for the employees who feel this way.
Councilwoman Laura Brett said that she did not agree with Dapolite’s secret taping of his boss, Nicole Levitsky, but that she listened to the tapes out of a sense of responsibility as a public official. The council is addressing the matter now, but members may disagree on how to do so, she said.
The integrity of government is important and so is protecting the rights of employees, she said, explain the council is trying to have integrity and protect city employees involved in the Dapolite matter.
“I regret that we didn’t do what we are doing now a year ago when issues were first raised,” Brett said.
Sack reemphasized his dissatisfaction with the council’s closed meeting on the matter and was interrupted by the corporation counsel who advised him he was opening himself up to litigation. Parker also told Sack to “choose his words wisely.” The council then moved on to the next agenda item.
At the end of the meeting Pickup spoke for a few minutes to explain that the Rye Golf Club and Dapolite situations have been "deeply difficult."
"I wanted to let people know, I do take personal responsibility for what I do," Pickup said. "I have a deep sense of betrayal and a deep sense of missed opportunites that we should have, or could have or would have, maybe with additional attention or additional actions, maybe intervened in some of those problems before they blossomed into the issues that they are today. For those things I do feel personally responsible."
Pickup said that all city staff work hard to serve the community and that he is working hard to rebuild community trust by working with the RGC commission, "containing damage," and "making sure we learn the lessons we have to learn and don’t repeat the same mistakes."
The council then went into executive session to discuss labor and personnel issues, French said.
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