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State Inspector General Found Obscene Photos of Nude Women in Seized Computers

ADIRONDACK PARK AGENCY OFFICIALS USED STATE COMPUTERS FOR PORN

Executive Director Daniel Fitts Suspended Without Pay

By Carol W. LaGrasse, August 6, 2005

Another reason just surfaced why the reviled regional Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is constantly complaining about not having enough staff to process zoning permit applications and prosecute enforcements. According to the Office of the New York State Inspector General in a report issued on August 4, APA Executive Director Daniel Fitts and four other officials have been busying themselves downloading and sharing nude pictures of women on the State computers. Ross Whaley, the Chairman of the regional state zoning commission, announced on August 5 that the agency had suspended Mr. Fitts indefinitely without pay.

The investigation by the Inspector General (IG) stemmed from a sexual harassment complaint that Mr. Fitts did not personally follow up, according to reports. The investigation found 86 "inappropriate images" of nude and partly nude women in the e-mail and hard drive of Mr. Fitts' seized computer. In violation of state regulations, four other officials, who were unnamed, each had 15 to 40 photos of the same nature on their computers. Mr. Fitts, who is paid $90,800 annually as the top official at the APA, assumed his post in 1996, and began working at the agency in 1987. Prior to that he spent seven years as an aide to former State Senator Ronald B. Stafford and was the senator's chief of staff at the time he moved to the APA. Mr. Fitts, who lives in Lake Placid, was on the board of trustees of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Newspapers throughout New York State, as well as television broadcasts, buzzed with the story of porn at the APA after the Albany Times Union broke the news on August 5 with a prominent headline, "Park agency officials shared nude pictures." On August 6, numerous papers covered the scandal. With a headline typical of its New York City slang style, the New York Post blared, "Lewd Dude," and cut to the chase about the scandal. Residents around the Adirondacks passed the news of the scandal around by word of mouth with a certain sense of satisfaction that the self-righteous, all-powerful agency was publicly exposed for hypocrisy. On the other side of the fence, Peter Bauer, the head of one of the region's powerful environmental organizations, called the Resident's Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, launched an attack on the weakened Mr. Fitts, calling him "a tool of Governor Pataki," according to the Times Union.

Official interviews that were reported initially seemed to downplay the issue, although Gov. George E. Pataki's spokesman Kevin Quinn was quoted on August 5 in the Times Union declaring that the governor was unhappy with the findings and confident that the commission would take appropriate action about such a "serious matter." On that same day, Chairman Whaley was reported to have said that the IG report was not on the agenda for the upcoming monthly meeting, which was barely a week away. However, in the Glens Falls Post Star article on the following day, Mr. Whaley reportedly said, "We are taking it extremely seriously and are trying to get it behind us with the utmost haste." He said that the commissioners would consider the matter at the regular two-day meeting, to be held in Speculator in Hamilton County. This meeting happens to be an outreach meeting in accord with the APA policy to occasionally spread monthly meetings more accessibly around the vast six million acres of its jurisdiction rather than hold every meeting at its far north headquarters in Ray Brook in Essex County. The deliberations will be behind closed doors according to the Times Union. This secrecy is permissible because New York's Open Government Law allows personnel matters to be conducted in "executive sessions" that are closed to the public.

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