Town Criticizes Report of ‘Wiretapping’ of Employees

Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth on Thursday criticized a newspaper report as  “a false story line” that incorrectly suggested the town is spying on its employees.

Standing in a Town Hall center filled with dozens of screens showing camera feeds from town property, Smyth and Public Safety Director Joe Cirigliano both said that hundreds of cameras provide security to the town. None, they said, include audio; none focus on town workers or members of the public.

“The town maintains a system of security cameras throughout the town, on town property only, including buildings, parks and maintenance facilities, ” he said. “The purpose of these security cameras is to minimize vandalism and deter theft of town assets and protect the public and our employees. The security cameras are not hidden. They are intentionally in open and obvious locations to maximize their deterrent effect.”

Smyth said that the Suffolk County police and other law-enforcement agencies frequently request town feeds to help solve crimes.

The North Shore Leader, part of a group of papers owned by Grant Lally, whose wife is the former Huntington town attorney, published an article headlined “Huntington Caught Wiretapping Officials, Reporters, Employees.”

The accusation that “wiretapping” was widespread was rooted in a minor accident involving two trucks in the Highway Department’s lot in Elwood. When Highway Superintendent Andre Sorrentino and Deputy Superintendent George Schwertl went to check on the accident, cameras with audio switched on recorded their conversations. That led the paper to a series of accusations about political motivations, recording of officials, reporters, and employees in town parking lots, and led online commenters to wonder whether they had been secretly recorded after leaving Town Board meetings.

Smyth and Sorrentino both said the audio feature on the cameras at the highway department had been turned off.

Some employees expressed privacy concerns on Thursday, Smyth said. “There was some concern raised because there’s a false narrative out there that we’re surveilling our employees. Again, false.”

Videos are kept in the system for 30 days before they are cleared away.

Smyth said the town “is not going to ignore false stories that affect the town’s employees or have an effect on public safety. We’re always going to address to make sure the public is aware or employees are aware of what the truth is.”

Councilman Sal Ferro said, “What our employees feel is important to us and I can assure you that we’re not the only town that has a system of cameras throughout the town to protect our assets, to protect our employees and protect the citizens.” He said the fact that audio was not disconnected from the highway cameras was a mistake but noted that the cameras were installed after a fire damaged multiple pieces of equipment. This narrative was created for some reason to create the assumption that there’s wiretapping.

Sorrentino said he had known nothing about the audio on the cameras. “I don’t want to eavesdrop on anybody. But, as far as I know, it was a mistake.”



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