Andrew Dapolite shared lengthy audio recordings with The Rye Sound Shore Review that speak to his allegations of a coverup and concealment of a taped meeting.
By CHRISTIAN FALCONE
Only days after the controversial comments of one city councilman resurrected community discussions about a tape-altering scandal at Rye TV, secret audio recordings made in the days following the controversy have now surfaced.
The recordings, shared with The Rye Sound Shore Review, present several conversations between Andrew Dapolite, 23, a former Rye TV employee who resigned in July 2012, and his superiors. Dapolite recorded the conversations without the knowledge of anyone else in the room.
Dapolite said he began recording his conversations with city staff as protection, due to fear of retaliation as issues with his employer began to develop. To date, no city officials have heard the tapes.
The Rye TV scandal centered on a contentious Jan. 25, 2012, fire department workshop with the City Council that dealt with restructuring the chain of command for volunteer firefighters to report in to the city manager. At that meeting, members of the City Council, public, press and some firefighters were told by City Manager Scott Pickup that the meeting wasn’t taped. However, the meeting had in fact been videotaped, then kept out of public view for 13 days as public pressure began to mount. According to Dapolite, the tape was specifically kept away from Republican Councilman Joe Sack, an adversary of the mayor and city manager.
Dapolite came forward in a February 2012 letter to the City Council, and said he had been pushed to lie about the existence of the recording. In his letter, he implicated Pickup and Nicole Levitsky, a Rye TV coordinator, for concealing the footage, and tampering with the audio levels of the broadcast.
At that meeting, the city manager told the City Council that the meeting wasn’t taped because city staff didn’t have the ability to videotape it.
Yet, the secret recordings seem to further strengthen Dapolite’s claims that city management did not want the public meeting taped, was aware that footage of the meeting did exist, almost immediately, and made efforts to conceal the footage, albeit temporarily.
“I mean, it’s unfortunate because the council has asked for these workshops to be videotaped, and Scott for some reason doesn’t want them taped,” Rye TV’s Levitsky is recorded saying to Dapolite days after the meeting. “You realize I asked him [Scott Pickup] three times before the [fire workshop] meeting to tape it. I said ‘you sure you don’t want us to tape it? We’re supposed to tape all council meetings.’ Scott doesn’t want to release that we have this.”
Early on, the recordings also portray Levitsky as apologetic to Dapolite for directing him to mislead the public and City Council about the existence of the workshop tape. “I should have told you from the start, don’t even answer them,” Levitsky said to Dapolite. “Tell them to call Scott. It’s his lie.”
When asked to respond to the tapes having come to light, City Manager Pickup said on Wednesday that, periodically, employees have left the city with a less than satisfying work experience, and some have felt compelled to continuously challenge elected and appointed officials with their versions of events.
“I have found that challenging these revisions only continues the cycle of negativity and conflict,” said the city manager. “It is always disappointing to me that we could not find a more productive outlet for their talents while they were still employed.”
A month after writing his initial February letter, Dapolite was reprimanded for using city equipment for personal business and eventually resigned from his post with Rye TV in July of 2012.
Councilman Richard Filippi, a Republican, recently brought the issue back to the surface, publicly accusing Dapolite of manipulating footage and shaking down the city for money as part of what Filippi labeled a call for civility. After the councilman’s comments, Dapolite said he decided to release the audiotapes he has kept privately since February of last year in an attempt to correct the record.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, city investigators hired to conduct a probe of the allegations of improper practices at the city-owned Rye Golf Club sat down with the former Rye TV employee last week to ascertain his view of the culture inside City Hall.
And media and public scrutiny has also begun to re-emerge with some residents again clamoring for an investigation.
Richard Slack, a Rye resident, spoke out at the Feb. 13 City Council meeting. Slack said he was deeply disappointed by the way the City Council has handled the Dapolite matter.
“These are matters of public trust,” said the resident.
Slack said that those elected officials who refuse to support an investigation will likely pay for it at the polls come November.
“The Rye community has a right to know the truth—whatever it is and wherever it leads. Yet, the council has buried this issue leaving the Rye public without answers,” he said.
Last year, Sack and Councilwoman Catherine Parker, a Democrat, were in favor of a City Council investigation into the matter under the authority granted to the council by the city charter. However, they were voted down by the Republican majority, who instead chose to refer the matter to the Ethics Board, a body with no binding investigative authority, which wound up shutting down its review without offering any conclusion or findings on the matter. The city manager and Levitsky were never asked by the board to respond to the allegations made against them and have not been questioned regarding the allegations to date.
This week, Councilwoman Parker said she has always felt it was the City Council’s responsibility to investigate the matter concerning Dapolite and Rye TV. “Any time a majority of my colleagues would like to initiate the process, I would support that,” the councilwoman said.
The refusal of the City Council majority to investigate the controversy has led some to point the finger at the Republican administration. In 2010, Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, appointed Pickup as city manager after he said during his 2009 mayoral campaign he would solidify the position for the long-term. The city manager has become a strong ally of the mayor’s ever since French took office.
When asked on Wednesday to comment about the tapes, French said only that the issue was an employment matter that has many sides to it.
Rye TV’s Levitsky could not be reached for comment.