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State Ethics Commission Accuses APA Staffer of Conflict of Interest


Edward J. Hood, Top Planner & Biosphere Reserve Figure, is Punished for Computer Porn

By Carol W. LaGrasse, May 2006

The Plattsburgh daily revealed in May that the Adirondack Park Agency docked four officials of vacation days for violating state agency policy by having images of nude or partially nude women on their computers. Last August, the State Inspector General announced the results of an investigation after a sexual harassment complaint that resulted in their seizing the computers of employees suspected of sending pornographic e-mails. Executive Director Daniel Fitts resigned last August amid public uproar after the Inspector General reported finding 86 images of nude or partially nude women on his computer. A list published by the Plattsburgh Press-Republican after a freedom of information request was finally successful revealed four other violators, included Edward J. Hood, the top planner; Keith McKeever, the agency spokesman; and two union employees, Michael Hannon and Ed Snizek.

Edward J. Hood is a significant player in the Biosphere Reserve movement. His signature appears on the 1989 application to the Man and Biosphere program at the National Park Service for the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve, which was quietly designated by the Paris-based UNESCO shortly afterwards. Mr. Hood is the Biosphere Reserve contact person at the APA, which is the New York State management entity for the UNESCO reserve. The APA, which is a zoning agency with environmental jurisdiction over six million acres of state-owned and private land in northeastern New York, is quietly implementing some Biosphere Reserve preservation policies, such as the elimination of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

The Adirondack Park Agency had just received bad press in April, when the New York State Ethics Commission accused an employee of steering work to her husband, according to the Press-Republican. The Ethics Commission's Notice of Reasonable Cause said that Mrs. Sunita Halasz may have violated portions of the Public Officers Law when she "took part in staff meetings which developed a number of information-technology projects for your spouse, Steven Halasz, to work on, in an effort to generate income for your family while you were on maternity leave from the APA." A second notice charged Dan Spada, Mrs. Halasz's supervisor, with holding meetings in order to come up with projects for Mr. Halasz, and with recommending to his superiors that Mr. Halasz be hired for the projects, "without the usual practice of competitive bidding or public notice."

The APA Commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, met in two closed-door sessions in early April and concluded that the employees had not violated the Public Officers Law. A follow-up report in the Press-Republican quoted the State Ethics Commission's Walter Ayers remarking, "The speed with which they disposed of this matter is unusual."


Edward J. Hood, long-time APA planner, accepting an award last September at the official APA meeting. Mr. Hood was one of five employees whose computer was found to contain images of nude and partially nude woman. Photo: Peter J. LaGrasse


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