Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright has said, for the first time, that former Town of Ulster Police Chief Matthew Taggard was suspected of engaging in “criminal conduct” while working with a youth program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America a decade ago.
Those allegations prompted an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office which culminated Monday, Oct. 22 when the decorated former lawman pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct inSaugerties Village Court.
Taggard appeared in court on Monday to enter the plea and receive a sentence amounting to $1,255 in fines and court fees, along with a “conditional discharge” meaning that his criminal record could be expunged in one year.
Taggard, then the Town ofUlster’s chief of police, was arrested and charged back on June 28. According to Carnright, the charge stemmed from allegations that Taggard “believed that sexual crimes were being committed in an adjoining jurisdiction, and failed to take any steps to prevent same or to notify the appropriate authorities.”
The official misconduct charge was the ultimate result of a three-month undercover investigation by Carnright’s office in conjunction with state police. As previously reported in the Kingston Times, Taggard, who spent 22 years with the Town of Ulster police before retiring last month, was the subject of a state police investigation back in 2002. Carnright this week declined to discuss the nature of that investigation but in June, following Taggard’s arrest, Carnright said the 10-year-old probe centered on “sexual misconduct with underage victims.” The case was eventually closed after state police investigators failed to turn up sufficient evidence to bring charges.
Named chief in 2010
Taggard, meanwhile, continued to rise through the ranks of the Town of Ulster Police Department, eventually reaching the top spot in 2010 when he replaced outgoing police Chief Paul Watzka. Town Supervisor James Quigley III, former town supervisor Nick Woerner and several members of the town board all said that they were aware of the 2002 investigation, but took no action because the charges were never substantiated. In fact, Quigley said, following Taggard’s arrest he had contacted a regional representative of the Boy Scouts of America, which sponsors the police Explorer program, to determine if there were any misconduct allegations involving the Town of Ulster Police Cadet program. According to Quigley, a check of internal Scout records turned up nothing. The program ended sometime between 2003 and 2005, according to Quigley, who said that he was unable to find records indicating exactly when or why the youth organization was disbanded.
Carnright, who was first elected district attorney in 2007, said he was completely unaware of the state police investigation of Taggard until March 2012. When he learned of the probe, Carnright said, he reopened the investigation with help from state police and a confidential informant. According to Carnright, the offenses alleged in the 2002 investigation fell outside the statute of limitations in New York State (seven years for most felonies). Thus, the renewed inquiry was focused on turning up evidence of more recent crimes. According to Carnright, the investigation was under way in June when he received news that prompted him to end the undercover portion of the probe and immediately bring the misdemeanor charge against Taggard.
“I was told that there was some discussion before the town board to renew a youth program with the Town of Ulster Police Department,” said Carnright on Tuesday. “Based on that, I decided to move forward.”
Taggard’s attorney, Tom Petro, declined Tuesday to discuss the guilty plea or the other allegations made by Carnright. Petro, however, said that his client had moved on with his life.