Sarah Dingley said she left a friend’s house on Nott Street early the morning of Thursday, May 19, turned onto Lexington Avenue and noticed Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy was following her.
In an emotional interview at The Daily Gazette, Dingley, 38, of Rotterdam, said she is unclear where McCarthy started following her and her friend, whom she did not identify, shortly after 1 a.m.
“He followed me all the way down Lexington flashing his high beams,” she said. “I pulled over because I thought he was a cop. When I realized he wasn’t a cop, I kept going.”
McCarthy lives on Lexington Avenue. He said last week that he saw Dingley’s van when he was taking out the garbage. He said he believes they were possibly picking up garbage, breaking into cars or doing drugs.
Dingley stressed that she did not get out of her van on Lexington Avenue.
Listen to the callSarah Dingley's 911 call
McCarthy did not return repeated requests for comment on Wednesday evening.
Dingley said McCarthy followed her and then pulled up next to her somewhere on Union Street. She rolled down her window and asked “who he was and what he was doing.”
That’s when McCarthy identified himself as the mayor of Schenectady, she said. She claims he was intoxicated.
“I could smell the alcohol from the window,” she said. “He asked me to get out of the van.”
McCarthy denied that he was intoxicated. He told the Gazette last week that he was never close enough to Dingley for her to be able to determine that.
“He blocked my van off and wouldn’t let me turn,” she said. “Every time I would go to turn he would follow beside me and wouldn’t let me go.”
Dingley called 911 and decided to drive her black conversion van to the police station on Liberty Street. She was on the phone with a dispatcher as McCarthy followed her in his black GMC Canyon.
“All the way down to the police station, he was on my bumper,” she said. “He was flashing his lights the whole time.”
McCarthy said he flashed his high beams at one point to get Dingley’s license plate number.
Dingley said at one point she told the dispatcher that he wasn’t following her anymore but that she realized later he was so close behind her that she couldn’t see his vehicle in her mirrors. At the end of a 911 audio obtained by the Gazette, Dingley tells the dispatcher she wanted to press charges against McCarthy.
When asked on Wednesday what police officers said to her outside the police station and why she ultimately decided not to press charges, Dingley said, “I’m reluctant to answer those questions at this point in time because of fear of repercussions.”
Dingley told the dispatcher that McCarthy “looked rich.” She said on Wednesday she couldn’t tell if he was wearing a suit but that he “wasn’t in his pajamas.”
McCarthy did not say last week where he was before the incident occurred.
McCarthy told the Gazette last week, “I hope she gets the help she needs.”
At the end of her interview with the Gazette, Dingley said, “I hope he gets the help he needs.”
Dingley declined on Wednesday to answer additional questions regarding the incident and was visibly upset.
The City Council met behind closed doors on Wednesday evening at City Hall to discuss the incident. Councilman Vince Riggi said the consensus among the seven council members was to ask Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett to call for an outside investigation.
Bennett, who was expected to attend the council meeting, was a no-show. He did not return request for comment on Wednesday evening.
The council plans to meet again in executive session to discuss the incident during a committee meeting on Monday evening at City Hall, according to Council President Leesa Perazzo.
Riggi sent a letter to Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney on Tuesday asking Carney to call for an outside investigation. Carney said on Wednesday evening that he has not yet received the letter.
Dingley told the Gazette on Tuesday that she would also like an outside investigation to take place.
Carney said on Friday that he would have to recuse himself from any complaint or investigation because McCarthy worked with him in the DA’s office for more than 20 years.
The county denied the Gazette’s FOIL request for video camera footage along Union Street and by the police station. The Gazette appealed the decision. Dingley and Riggi are also calling for the footage to be released.