Dutchess Ethics Chair Faulted

Ordered spy cam while head of Bridge Authority

The state Offices of the Inspector General considered the tampering with a computer keyboard used by an assistant foreman at the New York State Bridge Authority to be minor property damage.

But Tara Sullivan, chair of the Dutchess County Board of Ethics and then-acting director of NYSBA, ordered the installation of a camera at the office of the Kingston-Rhinebeck bridge in a covert operation to catch the culprit.

The Bridge Authority oversees five bridges, including Bear Mountain and Newburgh-Beacon.

Sullivan’s decision was not only “imprudent,” but ignored state law and led to a police review, the IG’s office said in an advisory letter sent in October to the NYSBA. The document was part of a batch of letters released on Nov. 29 under transparency guidelines ordered by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

On Dec. 1, Elisa Sumner, chair of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee, said Sullivan should resign as chair of the county Ethics Board. Sumner said the IG’s letter “makes clear that Sullivan is not fit to serve on ‘the body charged with the review and enforcement of … ethical conduct.’ ”

Sullivan issued a statement through her attorney that said she had acted “with the sole goal of guarding Bridge Authority equipment” at a time when “emergent action” was needed because of the pandemic. She retired from the NYSBA in July.

According to the IG, in May 2020, a foreman discovered that four keyboard keys had been removed and placed on other keys. Someone tampered with the keyboard again in early June, and a motion-activated camera was installed 12 days later.

Sullivan told investigators she considered the keyboard damage “a criminal act” that prevented the assistant foreman from accessing the bridge cameras. Sullivan also said she received clearance from the bridge authority’s general counsel.

Following an employee complaint, state police seized the cameras in October and contacted “a local district attorney” about a possible violation of state eavesdropping laws but closed the case after the DA decided not to prosecute.

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