During an interview with Albany radio station News Talk 1300, state Operations Director Howard Glaser outlined the specifics of a past disciplinary case against Mike Fayette, much of it surrounding an affair the former Essex County engineer had with a fellow DOT employee.
The move came the day after Fayette went public about DOT's efforts to fire him for speaking to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and North Country Public Radio - a story that drew attention from news media across the state and beyond. Chris Knight reported that story, and is following this latest chapter:
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Not long after interviewing Mike Fayette last week, I called DOT's communications office. I explained to agency spokesman Beau Duffy that I had some questions for DOT officials about the circumstances surrounding its push to terminate Fayette for speaking to the media.
His response: "Unfortunately, I can't comment on internal personnel matters," he said.
I pressed Duffy a little harder, saying Fayette's claims could shine a bad light on DOT. He replied, "It's our policy not to comment on internal personnel matters."
But on Thursday, the day after Fayette's story broke, Cuomo aide Howard Glaser took to the radio airwaves and read, line by line, the specifics of a half dozen charges Fayette faced from a March 2011 disciplinary action. "Among other things, and I'm sort of quoting here, you used the department vehicle to run personal errands and to rendezvous with a residency employee at a public school building to carry on an affair. Using the department email account to conduct personal business, including exchanging sexually explicit emails with a subordinate employee."
Glaser essentially accused the press of glossing over what he described as Fayette's "long record and pattern of abuse," focusing instead on the charges of improper contact with the press.
But both NCPR and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise had included Fayette's past disciplinary record in their reporting. It's also worth noting that the charges from the 2011 case had been resolved. Fayette said he was given a 10-day suspension and was fined 10 days' pay.
During the Albany radio interview, Glaser blurred the line between the disciplinary cases, saying the 2011 case was the driving force in the push for Fayette's termination, not the more recent charges he faced for talking to the press, which he didn't go into detail on.
"I hope the media takes the time to get the full facts in this case," he said. "It is not the policy of this administration to terminate people for improper, solely for improper contact with the press. Employees talk to the press on a regular basis in the conduct of their duties, and that's perfectly fine. If that were the issue here and the only issue, there would not have been a termination."
Show host Fred Dicker noted that reporters had asked DOT for information on Fayette's case but were told it was a personnel matter. Glaser said he wasn't sure why DOT handled it that way. He said the information from Fayette's personnel file was available to the media and could be obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.
After listening to the interview, Fayette said in an email that Glaser's comments were "completely outrageous."
"I've already had an attorney contact me suggesting I sue them," Fayette said.
Reporter Chris Knight contributed to today's broadcast, courtesy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. For more of his reporting, go to AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com.