Former McCoy ally now claims he violated her civil rights

ALBANY COUNTY — The woman who came forward to help set in motion  outgoing Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners’s investigation into crooked county payroll practices and allegations of county employees performing political campaign work on the clock has filed a federal lawsuit accusing County Executive Daniel McCoy and other high-ranking county officials of violating her civil rights.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, Keri Kresler claims that, after falling out of favor with McCoy because she didn’t back his chosen candidates in the 2017 election, she was bounced from one county job to another in retaliation, each time receiving a cut in salary — from a high of about $46,000 to a low of approximately $37,000, according to the website See Through New York — eventually, being fired from the Albany County Board of Elections in September.

Also named in the lawsuit are Albany County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Matthew Clyne and Albany County Department of Human Resources Commissioner Jennifer Clement. 

According to the complaint, Kresler was hired by what is now known as the Albany County Recreation Department in 2015, and for the nearly three years she was employed by the recreation department, she did not receive a poor performance review. 

Kresler had been active in city and county politics throughout this period, court papers say, acting as the Democratic Party’s Ward 7 Leader in the city of Albany.

Kresler declined comment. 

McCoy’s office was contacted for comment and received the following statement from John Liguori, a senior assistant Albany County attorney: “Our initial evaluation of the allegations is that they are baseless and we expect to promptly move to dismiss the complaint.”

In 2015, according to court documents, Kresler worked on McCoy’s re-election campaign, which was the basis of what eventually would become a time-and-attendance audit of seven-and-a-half years’ worth of payroll records — 12.2 million in total. 

In that audit where the “whistleblower” — identified in court papers as Kresler — shared “a tawdry list” of allegations with Conners, including the filing of false instruments, for example, filing a padded or falsified timesheet; seldom-show jobs; ghost employees; and the use of county offices, vehicles, and workers for political campaign work.

Conners had said previously that his office turned over to Albany County’s district attorney about 800 emails that it had received from the whistleblower — now identified as Kresler — in which he estimated about 400 emails “clearly demonstrate” that McCoy was aware of people in his administration who were performing campaign work on county time.

Conners said the emails had appeared to substantiate allegations that 10 county employees had been working on McCoy’s 2015 re-election campaign on county time.

In emails provided to The Enterprise by Conners’s office, timestamps show that Brian McCoy, the county executive’s brother, in 2015 had been coordinating the production of a flyer used for a golf fundraising tournament for Daniel McCoy with his county email address during what could be considered normal work hours; however, no other documentation was provided to prove he was actually at work or supposed to be working.

Conners had said previously that the forensic auditor had created a tool that could quickly match the time and date an email was sent with the time and attendance of an employee. 

 

Backing the wrong horse

In 2017, Kresler backed Frank Commisso Jr. for mayor of Albany. Commisso was running against McCoy’s preferred candidate, now-Mayor Kathy Sheehan, court records show. 

During the same period, McCoy “demanded,” the complaint says, that Kresler not run the campaign of her preferred candidate for Chief City Auditor of Albany in the 2017 elections, but rather wait until McCoy had chosen a candidate to back and then run that person’s campaign; Kresler chose not back McCoy’s candidate. 

When all the ballots were counted, every candidate that Kresler had backed either directly or indirectly, lost. McCoy had won, but began avoiding “basic niceties such as refusing to greet [Kresler] in groups with others and making a point to avoid eye contact.”

In January 2018, Kresler was transferred from the recreation department to the Albany County Department of Social Services, because McCoy didn’t want her working at the recreation department anymore, according to court records. 

Kresler’s salary remained unchanged for three months, until it was then reduced to $40,302 — a $6,000 cut, court documents state. 

Kresler also claims she was “subjected to a sexually harassing environment,” as two of her new co-workers at the department of social services would openly and in vulgar language discuss their favorite types of pornography to watch. 

She also claims to have had to seek a month of Family and Medical Leave because of the harassment she endured during her time at the recreation department.

In August 2018, Kresler voluntarily took a job at the board of elections.

The court filing says that sometime in 2019 Kresler was approached by Conners, who had been given her name as someone with information concerning county workers who appeared to have low- or no-show jobs.

Kresler began to cooperate with Conners and soon after claims she was fired in September from her job at the Albany County Board of Elections for what she was told was excessive use of sick leave — which, court papers say, she was using due to the stress and anxiety she was under because she had been identified to others working in county government as Conners’s whistleblower. 

Kresler was hired by Conners in November.

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