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Investigation Overload

Surrounded by controversy, Saratoga Springs Comissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue may now be the subject of an FBI investigation


Saratoga Department of Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue is no stranger to controversy, and according to a number of Saratogians who say they have been interviewed by the FBI, McTygue is now the target of an FBI investigation.

At least four sources who wish to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution say they have been interviewed by two FBI special agents about McTygue and his conduct as the commissioner of Public Works. Some of the individuals who claim to have been interviewed have first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the department. They say that although they are not certain what the subject of the investigation is, they have spoken at length with the FBI about an array of subjects, including McTygue’s dealings with developers, possible misuse of city property and employees, and alleged illegal dumping.

The FBI commented only to say they do not confirm or deny any investigation. Attempts were made to reach McTygue, and a secretary at the Department of Public Works informed Metroland on Tuesday that McTygue would be unreachable that day and the following day because he would be out of town for personal reasons.

According to insiders, at least a dozen people have been interviewed by the FBI regarding McTygue. One source who had been interviewed told Metroland, “Probably about a dozen people have mentioned speaking to the FBI, in passing, but they didn’t want to talk about it in detail. This investigation is not a small one. The agent made it clear that if they had found nothing the investigation would already have ended.”

Another source told Metroland, “I know it’s not just hearsay. It has actually been going on for some time, and they have spoken to numerous people. I know of six people that [the FBI] have had pretty lengthy conversations with, and a couple of them have spoken to the FBI more than once.”

Interviews seem to have started in early 2007 and have occurred as recently as this summer.

Sources said the investigation began as an inquiry to establish the value of an investigation and has now moved on to a second phase.

McTygue simultaneously faces an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office and the Department of Environmental Conservation into oil spills at the DPW garage, and possible illegal dumping elsewhere in the city. The status of that investigation is unknown, and it is unclear whether it is related to the FBI’s investigation. However, a number of sources who have been interviewed by the DEC claim to have also been interviewed by the FBI.

The attorney general’s office did not return calls requesting comment.

McTygue supporters have blamed Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn for instigating the state investigation and accuse her husband David Keehn, who is a lawyer at the DEC, of having undue influence on the investigations. Keehn denies the charge.

Both the mayor and her challenger, Gordon Boyd, a McTygue ally, claimed to have no knowledge of any investigations. Boyd declined to comment. Keehn, however, said any ongoing investigations “should be allowed to take their course.”

McTygue, a Democrat who has been a longtime powerbroker in Saratoga Springs, has his share of friends and enemies in the city. He has a reputation for ruling his department with an iron fist, while making friends with residents, businesses and developers with his tree-planting program, by repaving sidewalks and providing developers with water hookups. McTygue is credited by conservative pundits with keeping Saratoga beautiful; some even call him the “mayor” of Saratoga Springs.

McTygue’s relationship with Keehn has been venomous.

To his enemies, McTygue is an entrenched member of the old guard who has used his years in office to benefit himself. He is known for holding grudges and punishing his enemies, and is commonly described as a bully.

McTygue has repeatedly fought off charges that he does not meet residency requirements for his position as commissioner. Although naming his legal residence as a small house at 175 Clinton St., McTygue has openly acknowledged living on a large horse farm that features a regulation-sized race track in the Town of Saratoga.

In 2004, McTygue gave up a tax exemption obtained through the state’s STAR program on his Clinton Street property when critics pointed out McTygue did not live there. McTygue did not then apply for the STAR program for his farm. Although the State Board of Elections rejected a challenge to McTygue’s residency earlier this year, saying that his legal residence was in the City of Saratoga, critics of McTygue insist that the fact that he actually lives in the Town of Saratoga Springs violates the City Charter and the State’s Public Officer Law, which say elected officials must be residents of the municipalities they represent.

Former and current DPW workers who wish to remain anonymous alleged that McTygue has been known to have DPW staffers do work on his farm outside of the city, that McTygue used intimidation and threats to ensure that workers would vote for him and his allies whether they lived in the city limits or not, and they further alleged that McTygue has cultivated a relationship with developers that sees them donating large amounts of cash to McTygue’s political causes in exchange for quick water hookups.

“You name it, we discussed it,” said one source of their conversation with the FBI. “The man is crooked as a twisted-up old tree.”

—David King

What a Week

Wrong Lesson Learned

President George W. Bush cautioned American critics of the war in Iraq this week to heed the lessons of the Vietnam War. Pointing to the reign of Cambodia’s vicious Khmer Rouge and the brutal crackdown on former U.S. allies in Vietnam, the president claimed that it was America’s withdrawal in 1975 that led to the agonies of “ millions of innocent citizens.” Bush, who doesn’t exactly come across as “book smart,” should have better read his history before his attempts at revision. A more appropriate lesson learned, historian Gareth Porter argued, would be that in 1969 then-President Richard Nixon could have avoided six more years of bloodshed, and avoided the expansion of hostilities into Cambodia that helped give rise to the Khmer Rouge, by ending the war. (And, by the way, it was Communist Vietnam that ended the Cambodian genocide.)

Wide Bathroom Stance

Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) further eroded the GOP’s platform on morality when he was accused by a police officer of soliciting sex in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis. Craig pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor but later insisted it was all a mistake and said “I am not gay!” Craig has also insisted that it was his “wide bathroom stance” that lead his foot to enter the stall of the undercover officer next to him. In amusingly clichéd fashion, the disgraced senator has been a staunch opponent of equal rights for homosexuals, repeatedly voting against same-sex marriage.

Gun Nuts

Times Union reporter Brendan Lyons broke a story this week that dozens of Albany police officers and an Albany County assistant district attorney went through the police department to illegally purchase a load of assault rifles that are not suitable for urban policing. Some of the guns have been taken home by officers, others have been sold to private citizens and in one case a Colonie gun shop. Lyons further reported that Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings went to court with the Times Union to prevent a FOIL request for documentation of the city’s firearm purchases.

PHOTO: Joe Putrock

Are You Listening?

On Tuesday, members of and Veterens for Peace (including Dan Wilcox, pictured) gathered throughout the Capital Region to call upon Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Greenport) and Michael McNulty (D-Green Island) to return to Congress this September with a message for peace. They were calling for the politicians to put an end to the war in Iraq. The recent troop surge, the activists argued, has been a total failure. Iraq, they said, is afire with a bloody civil war, with American soldiers caught in the middle.

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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