Editorial: Where’s the outrage over McCarthy report?

The silence has been deafening
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy

The report was pretty damaging.

Special prosecutor Karen Heggen’s long-awaited report on Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy’s mysterious May car chase didn’t result in a recommendaiton for arrests.

But given the serious questions raised in how the police handled the matter that night, and given the potentially serious confl icts of interest that might arise during encounters between police and the mayor, one has to wonder why city officials from the public safety commissioner to members of the City Council seem to be treating the report and its conclusions with such complete indifference.

By now, they’ve all heard the frantic 911 call made by the two women that night, as they kept a police dispatcher on the line for several minutes as they raced to the city police station in their van over fears they were being chased by a maniac claiming to be the mayor.

Officials all know by now that several offi cers, including a lieutenant, despite the nature of that 911 call, did not take written statements from either the mayor or the women at the scene before sending them all home.

They all know by now that the women claimed the mayor was drunk and verbally abusive, and that one offi cer on the scene said he smelled alcohol. And they know police didn’t even bother to given the mayor a breathalyzer test or fi eld sobriety test to erase any doubt one way or the other.

Yet since the report was released last Friday afternoon, the offi cial city response — from the mayor, the police commissioner, the police chief and members of the City Council — has been a collective shrug.

City Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett seemed more upset about not receiving Heggen’s report before it was released to the media than he was about its conclusions, which included a recommendation that police in the future call in an outside agency such as State Police to handle matters involving the mayor.

As late as Thursday of this week, six days after the report was released, he was still claiming he hadn’t gotten a copy. If he that was interested in seeing it, as he should have been, it was easy enough for him to get.

Heggen distributed all the contents of the report — including interviews with the offi cers at the scene and the mayor — by email. When the report’s release became public last Friday about 3 p.m., it was all over the local news. Bennett could have called Ms. Heggen and requested she send him his own copy. Or he could have read it on our website, where we posted it immediately along with our article about it for all to see. No excuses there.

Then he said there was no internal investigation of the offi cers’ conduct. That seemed to contradict a statement by city Police Chief Eric Clifford, who said the city was dealing with the report as a personnel matter.

Neither Bennett nor Clifford said their investigation included looking into issues raised about the potential confl icts of interest and how to prevent them in the future.

Mayor McCarthy — whose bizarre actions that night started this whole mess and thrust his own conduct and the integrity of his police force into the spotlight — has been deafeningly silent on the matter. He did come out of his shell since then to rename a city street after Martin Luther King, though.

And members of the City Council have shown no great urgency to demand a public accounting from police department leadership about the incident. Nor have they shown any strong inclination to push for a new policy regarding encounters between police and public offi cials.

That’s what’s really bothersome about this. The indifference.

And it’s likely city officials will continue to behave this way in hopes that the public will let the matter die down and let the black eye fade away.

The only way city officials are going to take this seriously is if the public demands they be accountable, if the people send emails to City Hall, write letters to the editor and attend City Council meetings demanding officials do something to address this.

Otherwise, the mayor and the police and the City Council will get what they want. So far, they’re succeeding.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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