The rumor was strong: A contingent of sign-carrying people would storm Monday’s City Council meeting to call for the ouster of City Manager Michael Ciaravino, who fired James Slaughter, Newburgh’s former business and industrial development director and one-time interim city manager.
Not such protest took place on Monday, and Councilwoman Gay Lee used part of the meeting to shoot down another rumor: that she was organizing the protest.
In moments captured on the official meeting video Lee read an email from a resident who said Mayor Judy Kennedy was telling people the councilwoman was behind a planned demonstration against Ciaravino, who Lee opposed and the mayor supported.
According to the email’s author, Kennedy also said that Lee had contacted the media to ensure newspaper and television coverage, and the mayor wanted to organize a counter-protest of Ciaravino supporters.
“I did not organize a group to fire the city manager, nor would I ever organize a group to do anything like that, and certainly I would never have a conversation with Mayor Kennedy about anything like that,” said Lee, who is challenging William Larkin Jr. for his state Senate seat.
Lee, who has feuded openly with Kennedy, vowed to turn the email over to the city’s newly resurrected ethics committee.
“I did not vote for Mr. Ciaravino, but it is not my hope to sit and watch people fail,” Lee said. “He certainly knows that if I had a problem with him, I would tell him.”
Kennedy said a “whole lot of people” called her last week to say people bearing signs would be at Monday’s meeting.