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Blog: NY Inspector General finds wrongdoing by state workers

Earlier this month the New York State Office of the Inspector General likely saw an uptick in traffic on its website from journalists and others anxious to read the details of the agencies investigation into the escape of prison inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt from Clinton Correctional Facility back in June 2015.

But right next to the link for the prison escape report are the findings of two other investigations that didn’t get nearly as much attention from the media. Granted, they don’t involve ruthless killers on the lam, but they reveal misconduct by state employees the public would most likely be interested in, such as illegal gambling activity by prison workers and Erie Canal workers videotaping sexual activity on state boats.

At the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility prison employees ran an illegal “search for the queen of hearts” game of chance to raise money to pay for a celebration of the facility’s 25th anniversary, according to a 10-page report by the IG’s Office.

Prison Superintendent Patricia LeConey did not formally approve the game, but she was aware it was going on and did not check into its legality.

Before it was shut down after 48 weeks, thanks to an anonymous tip, the game had raised $31,781, which is now in the prison’s employee benefit account with strict rules about how it can be used.

The game started May 2, 2012, and was planned to run for 54 weeks. Each week, a player who paid $1 for a ticket would get a chance to pick a card with an associated cash prize. The grand prize — given to the player who got the queen of hearts — was 60 percent of the total money raised. The remaining 40 percent would go to the employee benefit account.

The other IG’s report released earlier this month covers misconduct by Canal Corp. from 2010 to 2014.

Canal Corp. worker Wesley Wright retired after disciplinary charges were filed against him. Disciplinary charges were also filed against Daniel Cornmire, a supervisor, for failing to monitor Wright’s conduct. Cornmire also retired before discipline was issued. Jason Watson, a seasonal employee, was not rehired.

The Canal Corp. maintains residences at remote reservoirs that supply water to the Canal. Employees can use the residences, if authorized. Employees also are allowed to stay overnight on docked vessels where maintenance is being done.

Wright and his wife were authorized to stay at a Canal Corp. house at Delta Lake Reservoir. Wright also monitored the North Lake Reservoir, but was not authorized to stay at the residence there.

From 2010 through 2014 Wright used the North Lakes House without permission. In 2010, his son, daughter-in-law and grandson were found living at the Delta Reservoir House without permission. He let them stay at the house again in 2013 without permission.

The IG found evidence that a female companion of Wright’s, and her children, were staying at the Delta Reservoir House when his wife was not there.

In July 2014, Canal Corp. officials touring reservoir sites visited the North Lake Reservoir house and found Wright’s female companion and her children there.

In the summer of 2012, Jason Watson was hired as a seasonal employee based at the Lyons maintenance facility in Wayne County and stayed on a boat docked at the site without authorization.

In August 2012, Canal Corp. officials found out about video recordings of Watson and others having sex on a Canal Corp. tugboat and derrick that were posted on his web site, until he removed them.

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