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Records Suggest Tague Took Thousands for No-Show Job

Written By Editor on 4/20/18 | 4/20/18

Former Sheriff Calls for Special Prosecutor

Earlier this week the Albany Times Union profiled Assembly candidate Chris Tague's time serving on the staff of former 107th District Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. Mr. Tague claimed a part time salary as McLaughlin's Community Relations Director from January to September 2011, which averaged about 17.5 hours per week while also working full time for Cobleskill Stone Products. Tague received $10,000 in annual salary and benefits in this position. Further research shows inconsistent records in Tague's timesheets, including claiming time when he would have been unable to commute or telecommute to work and contradictory information from Tague and McLaughlin indicating that-- at least partially-- this represented a no-show job.

In 2010, Tague donated $1,000 to the McLaughlin campaign, as did organizations headed by him. Tague served as the Chair of the NYS Association of Builders and Contractors and the Chair of the Aggregates Committee on the NYS Construction Materials Association. These donated $425 and $5,000 to McLaughlin's campaign, respectively. After the campaign McLaughlin hired Tague for his district, situated east of Albany.

Former Schoharie County Sheriff Anthony Desmond was in office during the period in question and ran much of the County's emergency response. We asked him about the physical conditions of roads and the ability to travel. In disclosure, Desmond supports Tague's opponent Wes Laraway. Former Sheriff Desmond said that while individuals could have left Schoharie County on back roads, they would be stopped and refused entry coming back into the disaster zone.

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During his time as a State Trooper, Desmond investigated three public corruption cases. including in the Town of Wells, the former Otsego County Court Judge, and former head of Social Services in Otsego County. Desmond said that he believed that he believes that Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter or that she should contact the State Attorney General's Office. He said that "if I was Mr. Tague, I would want a piece of paper stating that nothing happened."

Inconsistent Timesheets

Perhaps most compelling in the timesheets is the evolution of Tague's self-reported weekly work hours, varying between zero and twenty-one hours between January and July 20th, 2011. During these dates the hours were signed off by McLaughlin's Chief of Staff Daniel Lewza. From July 21st on, Assemblyman McLaughlin reviewed and approved the sheets himself-- and in each case through Hurricane Irene, Tague's hours were a repeated 17.5 hours-- the exact minimum needed to keep benefits.

Tague was unable to commute outside of Schoharie County after Hurricane Irene in August 2011. The roads in and out of Schoharie were closed due to a state of emergency with power and landline phone service in Schoharie out during the first several days after Irene. State Assembly policy requires all part time employees within the chamber report to a physical office to check in regularly and prohibited working at large without first doing so. McLaughlin had offices in Albany and Castleton-on-Hudson. Unless Tague physically visited one or both of these offices on August 29, 30, and the 31st, he would be unable to legally telecommute or work in the field.

Tague claimed 4.5 hours on Monday, August 29th-- the day after Hurricane Irene and the destruction of his own home, five hours on August 30th, and two hours August 31st, bringing him to the minimum needed to keep health insurance. He marked down "Legislative Duties" during this period, even as he later used personal and sick time in September, indicating a distinction in time claimed.

McLaughlin reviewed and approved this timesheet more than a month before Tague allegedly submitted the hours. According to the documents procured by the Times Union, which they sent to us and is here printed on this page, Tague signed the document outlining his hours after the flood on October 20th. McLaughlin approved Tague's request and and dated the form August 31st. The successive three timesheets were all signed by Tague as October 20th with differing dates from McLaughlin-- and all before Tague self-reported his hours.

At a base salary of $10,000 per year at 17.5 hours per week, Mr. Tague would have made approximately $10.99 per hour in wages from this position, not factoring commute time or other expenses. Above the salary, the Assembly Human Resources Department states that employees that work at least half time are entitled to "health insurance, life insurance, dental care, vision care, hearing care, workers' compensation, unemployment benefits and membership in the State retirement system." Between January and his resignation, Tague earned $7,441 in according to Assembly records. One official we spoke to stated that Mr. Tague regularly worked 60 hours per week at Cobleskill Stone around the same period.

In January the Times Union reported on a similar situation in McLaughlin's office. McLaughlin added his then-Rensselear County Executive campaign director Richard Crist to his Assembly office's payroll last year. The part time job lasted from September to December 2017. Although Crist never worked more than 17 hours per week, he received a pro-rated salary of $67,000 per year. Crist claimed working seven days a week, including Thanksgiving and an original, but scratched out note that he worked on Christmas Day.

The candidate did not respond to our calls for comment but told the Times Union, "The valuable and positive experiences I gained helping constituents and understanding how state government works have helped prepare me to serve the residents of the 102nd Assembly District." Tague's campaign manager told us that the candidate had nothing to say and "How could [Tague] be asked to remember a specific day seven years ago?"

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