Probe reveals no wrongdoing

Contributed photoThe barracks of the state police at Catskill in South Cairo.

CATSKILL — An investigation into charges of misconduct at the state police barracks in Catskill that became a flashpoint in the election campaign for Greene County sheriff revealed that the allegations are unfounded, state police officials said Tuesday.

State Police Director of Public Information Beau Duffy said in a statement that the Internal Affairs Division investigated an anonymous complaint in 2018 regarding an alleged theft of evidence that occurred in 2010.

In early 2019, additional information about the allegation was referred to state police by the state Attorney General’s Office and was investigated.

“The investigation has closed and the allegations were not substantiated,” Duffy said Tuesday.

No disciplinary action is being taken against the informant, Duffy said.

The investigation was a point of contention between sheriff candidates Peter Kusminsky and Diana Benoit, although Kusminsky did not start at the Catskill barracks until 2013.

Benoit alleged Wednesday that the informant has been demoted and transferred to a desk job in Middletown.

“I absolutely believe [the informant] and believe he was telling the truth, 100%,” Benoit said in an emailed statement. “I think anytime you have someone questioning the integrity of an evidence locker, the police and the district attorney get nervous. It is because they know if they find that there was a problem, many, many cases can be appealed.”

Kusminsky was happy to see the case resolved, he said Wednesday.

“I had faith in the system and am satisfied with the outcome,” he said. “It is sad, though, that the hard-working, dedicated men and women serving in the state police were made pawns in a political campaign.”

Benoit suggested that The Daily Mail contact the informant but when asked to provide contact information, she refused.

“Seriously? You don’t have a telephone at your office,” Benoit said in an emailed statement. “I would think that if someone was transferred, working at the desk and answering the phone, it would be pretty easy to call. Call during all shifts, see who answers the phone, ask for him. Leave a message for him. You won’t get spoonfed stories. The real stories are hard work.”

Press inquiries to the state police are typically directed to public information officers.

Throughout her campaign, the investigation was a sticking point for Benoit.

In a letter to Republican voters in June, Benoit wrote that the information regarding the theft of evidence from the barracks came from a Bureau of Criminal Investigations investigator who worked with Kusminsky.

“The person being investigated for the thefts is someone who Kusminsky supervised,” she wrote. “I know you are being told that this all occurred 10 years ago — way before Kusminsky was in charge of the Catskill BCI. That is false. The most recent allegation of theft happened as late as 2018. The allegation is that he knew that it was happening and condoned it and did not report it.”

Benoit named this investigator in conversations with Catskill resident Scott Myers, who submitted the conversations as exhibits in his lawsuits against the county.

“You should know the AG investigation and the theft of gun parts and subsequent sale of those parts was by him,” Benoit said, referring to the investigator. “With knowledge of Kusminsky.”

In October, Benoit questioned the lack of coverage on the investigation.

“I wonder why you won’t report on the AG investigation that shows Pete knew that one of his investigators was stealing gun parts?,” Benoit said in an emailed statement. “Want to see the text history?”

Benoit declined to send the text messages, requesting they be reviewed in-person.

Benoit canceled multiple times to meet for an in-person interview for the election.

On the day she was scheduled to come to Columbia-Greene Media’s office in Hudson for an interview, Benoit sent an email at 12:34 a.m., stating she had an event at 3 p.m. she had forgotten about and would have to cancel the 5 p.m. interview.

Benoit suggested the interview be moved to Oct. 25, in Cairo.

The Daily Mail agreed to meet Benoit at 10 a.m., at which point she refused to do an in-person interview, requesting to submit answers through email.

“It is the truth that Pete has been accused by a BCI investigator of knowingly ignoring the theft of items from the evidence lock at SP Catskill while he was in charge of the evidence locker,” she wrote in her interview response.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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