A 39-year-old Glenville woman is planning legal action against Saratoga Springs Police Chief Christopher Cole and the city for identifying her as the woman with whom Cole had exchanged sexually explicit text messages and photos.
Cole released a statement Thursday admitting he had an “intermittent” personal relationship with the woman and, using his personal cell phone, sometimes exchanged sexually explicit photos and text messages with her.
He also named the woman, Laurie Masi, in the statement.
Masi has retained The DeLorenzo Law Firm to represent her in a civil rights case against the city, the city police department, and Cole, said Paul DeLorenzo of the Schenectady-based law firm.
DeLorenzo said Friday that Cole’s decision to “publicly identify Ms. Masi, a private citizen who simply wanted to distance herself from him and his unwanted behaviors, has had immediate consequences for Ms. Masi and her children and sends a chilling message to those who seek only to be left alone.” Masi has children ages 6 and 10 but is not currently married, he said.
Shortly after a local television station contacted Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth this week about a woman who planned to release, on-air, information about Cole and his sexually explicit text message and photos, Cole “publicly identified Ms. Masi in a news release that grossly mischaracterized the nature of their relationship,” DeLorenzo said in a statement.
DeLorenzo said at one time Cole and Masi did have a consensual relationship but that Masi had told Cole to stop sending the explicit text messages and photos.
Cole said in a statement that he sent one explicit photo on his cellphone while he was on his lunch break but “behind closed doors” in his office in Saratoga Springs City Hall. “I realize now that this was an error in judgment,” he said in his statement.
The press statement was forwarded, through Cole’s private lawyer, Christopher Watt of Saratoga Springs, to Wirth on Thursday. In the city’s commission form of government, the public safety commissioner appoints the police chief. Cole was appointed chief in 2009 by then-Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim.
Cole, 45, joined the police department in 1990 and worked his way up the ranks to the $92,432 job as chief. He has been legally separated from his wife for 3 1⁄2 years.
Wirth said Friday evening that he had no comment about the possible civil rights case against Cole and the city.
No action has been taken to discipline Cole, whom Wirth said has done an excellent job as a police officer and a police chief. Cole took a vacation day Friday but is expected to return to work Monday.
Wirth said he is reviewing the facts of the case and considering what disciplinary options are available to him under Civil Service laws and regulations. He said these options could include everything from an administrative leave to outright termination.
Wirth said in his opinion Cole did not violate any departmental regulations by sending the messages and photos. However, such conduct is unbecoming a police officer, especially a chief, he said.
Wirth maintains that he has never received a formal complaint from anyone about Cole’s behavior. He said the woman contacted the police department on May 31 and talked to one of the officers on duty. She was told the complaint should be made to the public safety commissioner, not the police department.
“She never called me, she never called the commissioner’s office,” Wirth said.
In absence of an official complaint, Wirth said, he is unable to initiate “an official investigation.”
DeLorenzo said Friday that he wants to “sit down with city officials” and discuss the issue prior to filing legal papers. He said he would contact city officials about such a meeting on Monday.
“Ms. Masi views this as a personal matter between she and Mr. Cole and not as a reflection upon the city of Saratoga Springs or its police department,” DeLorenzo said.
“However, it is impossible in this instance, to separate the actions of Mr. Cole from his position of authority as chief of police and it is for this reason that Ms. Masi is initiating a civil rights action naming all three as defendants,” DeLorenzo said in a prepared statement.