Former bridge authority boss says she won’t step down as ethics chair

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Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge
Tara Sullivan

POUGHKEEPSIE – Tara Sullivan, the former Acting Executive Director of the New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA), and current chairwoman of the Dutchess County Ethics Committee is being asked to resign by the Dutchess County Democratic Committee.

Sullivan told Mid-Hudson News that she has no plans to step down.  Sullivan was recently found to have violated state executive law while at NYSBA, by the New York State Inspector General.

In 2020, while Sullivan was in charge of the NYSBA, she was accused of spying on Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge employees which resulted in investigations by the state police and the inspector general.  The story regarding the cameras and Sullivan’s denial can be read HERE.

During the IG’s investigation into the matter, Sullivan abruptly resigned from her position, effective on July 15, 2021.  At the time, Sullivan’s departure was announced as a retirement through an NYSBA news release which has since been removed from the NYSBA website. The July Mid-Hudson News article covering her departure can be read HERE.

The NYS IG report concluded that Sullivan had violated state law and acted in an imprudent manner.  The accounts of the report can be found HERE.

On December 1, two days after the Mid-Hudson News exclusive story about the NYS IG letter, the Dutchess County Democratic Committee Chairwoman, Elisa Sumner, issued a statement calling for Sullivan’s resignation from the ethics committee based on the NYS IG findings.  Sumner said in part, “Acting Executive Director of the NYS Bridge Authority (NYSBA) Tara Sullivan violated the law, we, the Dutchess County Democrats, call for her immediate resignation as Chair of the Dutchess County Board of Ethics and that she permanently step down from the Board.”

The Democratic leader also said, “The IGA’s report makes clear that Sullivan is not fit to serve on the body charged with the review and enforcement of… ethical conduct for officers, employees, and certain appointed officials of the County of Dutchess, to afford them clear guidance as to these standards, and to ensure that county government is free from improper influence so as to assure public confidence and trust.”

Mid-Hudson News contacted Sullivan, a former Woodstock town board member, and Ulster County legislator on Wednesday afternoon. Asked to respond to questions regarding the Democrats’ statement, she responded Wednesday night through an email from Rhinebeck attorney Nathaniel Charny. He was retained by Sullivan in response to recent Mid-Hudson News reporting on Sullivan’s ties to the “spy-gate” issue. Charny said in part, “you are instructed to cease and desist from publishing the inaccurate information on this topic and retract all references that state or imply that Ms. Sullivan resigned due to the IG investigation.” The NYS IG letter that was the basis for the Mid-Hudson News story said in part, “During the investigation, Sullivan resigned her position at the Bridge Authority effective July 15, 2021.”

(Quote from actual IG letter)

 

The attorney also provided Sullivan’s response to the Mid-Hudson News inquiry regarding the resignation request.  Sullivan, through her counsel, said “I do not intend to resign my role as Chair of the Dutchess County Ethics Board as long as the County Executive continues to want my service,” adding “I have done nothing unethical.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro nominated Sullivan and the other members to the committee. The county legislature then approved the nominations. The demand by Democrats for the resignation included allegations that Sullivan ignored ethics complaints against Molinaro a few years ago which Sullivan dismissed as unfounded. “The Democratic Committee’s statement is full of misinformation and addresses issues that have long been resolved by the Ethics committee’s unanimous decisions,” she said. Sullivan is one of five members of the Ethics Committee and was selected as chairperson by the committee members.