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Heat is on city with Fire Department complaints

Friday, May 9, 2014
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Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the ugly sexual harassment and death threat complaints filed against the Schenectady Fire Department by Jennifer Costa is that they involved so many people — not just her colleagues and immediate supervisors but several people up the chain of command, including current chief Raymond Senecal, who was a deputy chief at the time.

If Costa’s claims are even remotely true, it’s a serious problem — one that is likely to humiliate the city the way its police department once did and cost taxpayers a bundle to resolve.

Obviously, Mayor Gary McCarthy must get to the bottom of the allegations quickly and with utmost credibility. That means no internal whitewashes. Rather, he needs a disinterested party, such as the district attorney’s office or state police, to investigate, such as was done with the police department several years ago.

Costa’s attorney indicated that complaints will be filed soon with the state Division of Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but waiting for those to be resolved is not a good idea because the department — indeed McCarthy’s whole administration — will be under a dark cloud all the while. The mayor says he doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment, so he’ll have to prove that he doesn’t.

He’ll also have to explain what he knew about Costa’s claims and when: It’s hard to believe, given the explosive nature of them and the number of people she says were privy to them, that McCarthy hadn’t heard about them until now. And if he did know, how did he respond? He’s said nothing to indicate that he took them any more seriously than Costa’s version of how Senecal took them — “boys will be boys.”

Senecal’s response, if it is indeed accurate, would be completely unsatisfactory; as would McCarthy’s failure to respond until the complaint was made public. These are serious charges, and not just against one or two people, and not just against rank-and-filers.

Regardless of what transpired with Costa, the city would undoubtedly be better served by a more independent reporting mechanism for whistleblowers — whether it’s the long-dormant Affirmative Action Advisory Board or some other independent watchdog. Letting “boys who will be boys” handle complaints is asking for trouble.

It’s also time for the city — if it doesn’t already have one, and McCarthy won’t say — to institute an anti-sexual harassment training program, and make sure all employees take it.

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May 9, 2014
10:40 a.m.
-3 votes
reader1 says...

Note to Editorial Board - while there were external investigations of the PD, the lion's share of the more recent disciplinary cases were handled internally. The DA's office entered into the cases at the request of the PD. They have to be when the case involves criminal conduct. Your article, not surprisingly paints a picture that the PD was incapable or unwilling to address its' own problems.

And, in view of the fact this case had nothing to do with the Police Department, why are you dragging them into it? Oh I forget, it's the Gazette.

May 9, 2014
+0 votes
kmiac says...

Is this a joke? This is armature journalism at its finest. Why is it that the gazzett finds any way possible to drag the police dept into a negative light? You are writing an article, about a woman stating she was threatened and sexually harassed by her employer, those are serious allegations! Instead of filling your articles with crap, be a real journalist and investigate the claims made. Had this particular woman made complaints in the past and to whom? Has she ever had a history of complaining against an employer? Have those being accused ever been accused prior? All questions worth asking, none of which involve SPD. Seriously gazette, your paper is nothing more but a local version of the national enquiror!

May 9, 2014
12:01 p.m.
+1 votes
joycemadre says...

The Gazette does a great job for the most part and this article is no different. The city needs a major cleaning starting with the Mayor. Perhaps a little less night life and more focus on issues at hand would be a good start. These allegations being brought are very serious and should not be taken lightly.

May 9, 2014
12:12 p.m.
-2 votes
kmiac says...

You lost me at the gazette does a great job....

May 9, 2014
9:46 p.m.
-1 votes
ChuckD says...

The Gazette gets a "C" from me for trying to fill its natural role as the Fourth Estate. It should mention the PD problem as that's a previous example of municipal employees who got too full of themselves. And if I recall correctly, the DA was called in after FBI and ACLU investigations, and because of its inability to hold officers accountable on it's own.
The phrase I think kmiac means is "armchair journalism". It's lazy journalism fer sure. This story has smoke all over it, is there fire too? How about upping your credibility DG and reporting the demographic make-up of the FD (and the PD for that matter). I don't have the numbers but my bet is it doesn't come close to matching the demographics of Schenectady. Think there's a story there? I think a high school journo class would be all over it. Especially one in the City of Schenectady.

May 10, 2014
7:19 a.m.
+0 votes
reader1 says...

ChuckD - Your assertions appear to be little more than guesses about the history of the events.

May 10, 2014
10:20 p.m.
+0 votes
ChuckD says...

Well then reader1, do enlighten us. My assertions are a bit more than guesses, based on recollections and some Googling to confirm my recollections. Admittedly I'm something of an outsider, not being a city resident, but I am employed full time in the city and go to work there every day (in addition to having been raised in the immediate vacinity).
So how about some substance to your assertion?

May 11, 2014
9:34 a.m.
+0 votes
reader1 says...

The information is out there. I don't have the time nor desire to educate you on these matters.

May 12, 2014
1:04 p.m.
+0 votes

reader1 (mark)....your best interaction with a message to the Gazette Editors is a direct message to them...I have found that to be the best way in communication, as they do read these messages they have always returned any inquiries I have had with them. I hope that helps..It worked for me in the past..All the best to you. thank you for your comments in these very important matters needing to be addressed with one of our city departments. It is a horrible accusation that needs investigating and accountability.


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