NEWBURGH – Newburgh City Mayor Torrance Harvey says he “played” City Manager Michael Ciaravino “as his buddy” so he could advance his agenda “to move the black community forward.”
Harvey made the comments to Councilwoman Hillary Rayford in an August telephone conversation that Rayford secretly recorded. Mid-Hudson News obtained a copy of that exchange in which Harvey told Rayford “I think we got this guy, the city manager. From day one, this guy has always pissed me off,” the mayor said.
At public city council meetings, Harvey showed another side, often complimenting Ciaravino.
The manager announced weeks ago that he would resign at the end of the year to explore other career opportunities.
Councilwoman Patty Sofokles criticized Rayford for recording the telephone call with Harvey.
“I think it’s ethically wrong to have recorded a confidential conversation,” she said.
In the phone call, Harvey questioned Ciaravino’s time away from Newburgh, accusing him of spending a lot of time in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio instead of at city hall.”
Harvey also told Rayford that he signed Ciaravino’s time sheets weeks after former Mayor Judy Kennedy died and that the manager had submitted family leave time off.
Harvey also said he was angry with Ciaravino for taking the initial action to shut off Washington Lake reservoir without speaking to the city council first and that the manager had invited people other than those agreed upon for a recent meeting with a top state official. “This dude is on the ropes. We got him where we want him,” Harvey told Rayford in his telephone conversation.
On Tuesday, Harvey is running for election for the remaining year in Kennedy’s term. He is being challenged by former Councilwoman Gay Lee.
She characterized Harvey’s actions as “a gross representation of malfeasance. This is the mayor complaining about one employee and talking as if he had been having a conversation with this employee who has been defying him. He has not. He is saying he has been feeling a certain way and he has thought about it. Instead he decided to befriend him and I don’t know how that translates into supervision.”
In his phone conversation with Rayford, Harvey also said Newburgh was a finalist for the latest $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, but that had been in jeopardy because Ciaravino named the state as one of the defendants in a lawsuit over the water contamination issue.
In the end, the state awarded the third Hudson Valley DRI grant to the City of New Rochelle.
The first $10 million DRI grant went to the City of Middletown and the second one was awarded to the City of Kingston.