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Leaks, Lies & Videotapes
Thursday, 23 February 2012 13:37
By Robin Jovanovich
These are heady times for the local media. In recent weeks the wires were overheating with all the news traffic. The top story was the question of whether the Mayor received preferential treatment from City employees as far as permitted use, possible building violations, and an extra STAR exemption on a rental property. It was seemingly all over but the blogging when the Board of Ethics ruled no such treatment had been granted.
Segue to the next big story. In a seven-page letter to the City Council, dated February 13, that appears to have been leaked to the Sound Shore Review (SSR) but no other news organizations that day, RyeTV staffer Andrew Dapolite asks the Council to investigate another matter involving City employees. In his case, that his boss, Public Access Coordinator Nicole Levitsky, asked him not to reveal that the special Fire Department Workshop which preceded the January 25 Council meeting was recorded.
Tapegate? We didn’t think so initially, especially when we learned the workshop was taped.
But when we read an “exclusive” front-page story about the incident on the SSR website February 16, we called Dapolite.
In a mostly ‘off-the record’ conversation with us February 17, that can now be made public, Dapolite said he wasn’t willing to lie to Councilman Joe Sack, with whom he’s worked on a number of community videos, most notably “The Council Project”. Councilman Sack had asked him for a copy of the tape because he was unable to make the workshop.
Dapolite also said he didn’t want to lie to Rye Fire Department personnel, many of whom had asked if the meeting was recorded.
When Levitsky, according to Dapolite, told him to inform anyone who asked that, “Rye TV did not record the meeting,” he said he emailed her his concern he’d be violating the City Code of Ethics.
On January 27, Dapolite emailed Levitsky they should notify City Manager Scott Pickup that the tape existed. “Based on the City Manager’s comments at the Council meeting, it seemed he didn’t know.”
Later, according to Dapolite, Levitsky told him, “Scott didn’t want it to be recorded.”
After contacting the City Manager and not hearing back from him, and with the workshop still not posted, Dapolite said he felt he had no choice but to “reach out to Councilman Sack.”
The Councilman called Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson and met with the City Manager. He also spoke to his fellow Councilmembers about the matter.
It took nearly two weeks for the workshop to be posted. After receiving complaints from residents that the sound quality was poor, Dapolite said he investigated and discovered that “the audio had been manipulated and the posted video was less audible than the original.”
In Dapolite’s letter, which The Rye Record was only privy to parts of (those in the February 17 SSR article) until it was in wide release February 20 — he goes a step further. “I would also ask for any City Council member to broaden this complaint to include any other possible violations of the Rye City Code by Mr. Pickup and/or Ms. Levitsky that I may not be aware of, should they see fit.”
Did that mean Dapolite wanted the City to conduct a far-reaching and costly investigation? In a follow-up conversation with Dapolite, he said, “I’m not planning on suing the City. I find it troubling that the workshop was taped but not broadcast right away as Council meetings are.”
Meanwhile, we read in an article on Rye Patch that, “Dapolite was surprised when editor Robin Jovanovich of the Rye Record contacted him saying she had obtained the letter through ‘a leak.’ Jovanovich began questioning Dapolite and directly quoting the contents of Dapolite’s letter during their phone conversation.”
Sorry to have to report that The Rye Record was only able to quote those parts of the letter to Dapolite that were included in the SSR article. No one leaked anything to The Rye Record.
When we spoke with Dapolite February 21 and asked for an explanation, he replied, “I really thought you said you’d read the letter. I’m sorry if I misquoted anything, but I have no control over what the other media do with interviews I give.”
We trust the media will aim to report the facts with fairness to all and not go in search of conspiracies that don’t yet exist.
Reaching Councilman Sack on vacation this week, we asked him if he had leaked the story to the press. “Absolutely not,” he replied.
We spoke to Nicole Levitsky on Tuesday. She said she could make no comment at this time on the video or her conversations or emails, one of which was apparently leaked to the Sound Shore Review.