Grassroots Reaction: "Adirondack Porn Agency"
T-shirts, House-sized "No APA" Sign
PORN DISCLOSURE SUBJECTS APA TO CONTINUING RIDICULE
After Resignation of Executive Director Daniel Fitts, Other Violators Never Disclosed
By Carol W. LaGrasse
Adirondack Park Agency Executive Director Daniel Fitts was indefinitely suspended without pay the day after the Albany Times Union created an uproar by carrying a story on August 5, 2005 disclosing that the State Inspector General had reported that Fitts had 86 "inappropriate images" of nude and partially nude women on the e-mail and hard drive of his computer. The Inspector General had examined seized computers as a result of a sexual harassment complaint and discovered that Fitts and four other officials at the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) were using the state computers to share obscene photos of woman. The APA immediately became the subject of ridicule in the newspapers and on the airwaves. On August 12, Fitts, who was named director in 1996, resigned from his $90,800 yearly position, without an apology. He was eligible for a substantial State pension.
However, the resignation was too late. Disgust for the APA that had been brewing for years had surfaced. On August 12, newspapers from Schenectady north carried the statement of this writer at the previous day's APA meeting. Typical was the report by The Saratogian:
APA Chair "Whaley opened Thursday's meeting by pointedly telling the crowd that no one was to discuss the investigation during the public comment portion of the meeting. Carol LaGrasse of Stony Creek, Warren County, ignored the admonition and kept talking despite repeated attempts to silence her. She referred to an APA 'preoccupation' with porn. 'The APA has made itself a laughingstock,' she said. LaGrasse, president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, also mentioned proposed APA regulations on the length of stays in privately owned campgrounds. 'The APA is anti-family,' she said."
On August 13, when the newspapers carried the story of Fitts' resignation, an insidious, humorous note crept in. "Mike Vilegi, a frequent agency critic, showed up at Friday's meeting wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Adirondack Porn Agency' written across the chest and a less polite phrase written on the back," observed the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.
While the T-shirts began to show up across the Adirondack region, an anti-APA-sign-raising drew television and newspaper reports from Warrensburg. Ted Galusha, who had worked for years "within the system," as he put it, to see that the federal court-ordered settlement of his lawsuit for disabled access to the Adirondack Park was implemented, realized that his courtesies to the APA and DEC were not being returned. On August 19, he and a group of supporters raised a hand-built, hand-painted "NO APA" sign to cover the side of his house on Route 9, the busiest north-south route in northeastern New York with the exception of Interstate 87.
Soon after his appointment as the replacement APA executive director, Richard Lefebvre, who had headed the Hudson River Black River Regulating District as a governor appointee after retiring from his former position as governor-appointed APA chair, received criticism for using the state computer at the regulating district to transmit pornography that was degrading to women and for telling vulgar jokes, during his tenure there. Lefebvre responded that, while at the regulating district, he had apologized to people who might have been offended. He had not been disciplined, however. The APA continued under Chair Ross Whaley to be focused on getting past any criticism. The accusation against Lefebvre, which was raised in a written complaint by former regulating district Chief Financial Officer Henry Hess, was never formally resolved in any public report.
The reaction to the APA's hypocrisy and abuse of landowners and residents is not blowing over, however. During the same period, Jim McCulley and others brought three civil rights lawsuits independently of each other in federal court against the APA and DEC about a number of matters.