Friday, September 4, 2009

DA Carnright and Sheriff VanBlarcum question County Supervisor Hein's authority to investigate

DA: lewd e-mail probe could raise legal issues


KINGSTON — Ulster County Executive Mike Hein's call for a special investigation of pornographic e-mails sent via county computers raises warning flags with District Attorney Holley Carnright.

"I am not sure the county executive has the authority to investigate my office," Carnright said Thursday, pointing to ongoing investigations, undercover work and more.

"People need to slow down and think about what is going on here. I cannot allow anyone to do a broad investigation of the DA's e-mail," he said.

Hein has directed the county's special labor counsel to investigate the lewd e-mails sent by two employees in the district attorney's office and two in the sheriff's office.

Hein said Wednesday the e-mails were sent on the county computer system and violated county policy and procedures.

He urged Carnright and Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum to immediately discipline the employees involved. Both Carnright and VanBlarcum said Thursday that their employees had been suspended.

Carnright said no laws were violated in any instance. His employees suggested the suspensions as the proper step, Carnright said.

The sheriff's employees realized what they did was wrong, VanBlarcum said.

The incidents are still "extremely serious" in the eyes of Hein. He wants further investigation to determine, among other things, whether this was a single incident of improper e-mails.

Hein said he has the authority for an outside investigation and plans to discuss the scope of the outside investigation with Carnright and VanBlarcum.

"We have no desire in any shape or form to compromise any of the incredibly important work done in the DA's office," Hein said. "That being said, this cannot and will not be taken lightly by my administration."

VanBlarcum said he sides with the DA on the legal issues. "We don't know where it is going yet," he said, "or even whether it is going anywhere."

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