By Joe Sack, Rye City Councilman
In February of this year, Andrew Dapolite, a city employee in the Rye TV studio, wrote a letter to the city council. In the letter, Mr. Dapolite made very detailed, credible and serious allegations.
To this date, nearly six months later, the city council has taken no meaningful steps to either investigate or act upon these allegations. What a shame.
These allegations included in sum and substance:
That a January city council meeting which the city manager told us was not videotaped, was indeed videotaped.
That Mr. Dapolite was instructed by city staff to tell the public that the meeting was not videotaped, even though it was.
And – when the city finally acknowledged that the meeting was actually videotaped – that the audio on the videotape was purposefully lowered to make it difficult to hear.
Subsequently, Mr. Dapolite made a further allegation that the city manager retaliated against him for bringing these matters to light, by taking adverse employment action against him which was unfounded. That particular allegation took the form of a lawsuit, which was luckily recently settled with regard to resolving the city’s exposure.
Back in February, I publicly called for the city council to investigate these serious allegations. The city council is, in fact, the only body authorized by our city charter to conduct such an investigation. However, the council majority declined to do so.
Instead, the council majority decided to refer this matter to the city ethics board, for that body to do its own investigation, even though it is not authorized by our charter to do so.
A few weeks ago, the ethics board released a report recommending that no further action be taken. I like and respect the members of the ethics board. However, they were put in a tough situation by being given this matter. And I know that they tried to do the best they could under those circumstances.
But unfortunately, the ethics board did not reveal the results of any investigation. Mainly this is because the ethics board did not conduct an investigation, beyond speaking with Mr. Dapolite behind closed doors. Incredibly, the ethics board issued its report without ever even speaking with the city manager or any other city staff, reviewing documents, or speaking with any other potential witnesses.
I myself had offered to speak with the ethics board, in that Mr. Dapolite, the city manager and other city staff had all made contemporaneous statements to me regarding the alleged misconduct. The ethics board did not take me up on my offer.
Regardless of the course taken by the ethics board, they are not the decision makers. The city council ultimately is in charge. So now the ball is back in the city council’s court to do what it should have done in the first place – conduct an investigation, make a determination as to what happened, and take appropriate action based on that determination.
On a personal note, I have worked closely with Mr. Dapolite over the past couple years on many Rye videos, including “The Council Project”, which featured interviews with past city council members on the qualities that make for a good and effective member of the council. On those standards, Mr. Dapolite has acquitted himself well, and proven to be a talented, dedicated and upstanding person.
I am saddened that Mr. Dapolite has recently left his job with the city, apparently in large part because of frustration that the city council has failed to investigate and act on his allegations. Mr. Dapolite, a life-long Rye resident who is just 22 years old, has demonstrated great character beyond his young age in very adverse and trying circumstances.
There are of course many important issues in the city for us to address, including the balancing act of providing essential city services while keeping taxes down, all while maintaining our quality of life.
But the allegations which Mr. Dapolite made – which touch upon basic truthfulness and fair dealing – chisel at the faith and trust upon which we must rely, which form the very foundation of our city. So in fact, there is no more important issue than protecting these ideals.
We appreciate the hard work that the city manager and staff do. We like them personally. But we must address these allegations, we cannot simply ignore them and move on.
There must be accountability. We must maintain integrity. We cannot just sweep this alleged serious misconduct under the rug and pretend that it didn’t happen. If we allow this matter to go unchecked, worse that setting a terrible example, we will sadly diminish everything else that we strive for. In the end, we will be doing a great disservice to the people of the city of Rye.
Joseph A. Sack, Esq.
The Sack Law Firm PLLC