Police Chief Joe Sinagra stepped into the political arena with an angry diatribe aimed at Republican Town Board candidate Allyson Barbaria, charging her with circulating misinformation and “political propaganda” about the extent of the town’s drug problem in a campaign flyer at the board’s bi-monthly meeting last week.
Barbaria, who was not present for most of Sinagra’s complaint, said afterward that she stood by her contention that Saugerties had a rampant drug abuse problem that has gone unaddressed by the police, despite “needless spending.”
Sinagra told the board during its public comment period that while he hesitated to get involved in political campaigns, he did so in light of the misinformation contained in Barbaria’s flyers.
“I’m not saying we don’t have a drug problem — every community does — but it’s not rampant,” he said. “There’s no street sales. Evidently, she knows something I don’t.”
To Barbaria’s complaint of needlessly spending, Sinagra compared the town’s police force to those in Kingston and the town of Ulster to demonstrate what he called the department’s financial frugality.
The town, he said, encompasses 60 square miles including roughly 23,000 residents with a police force of 24 full-time officers and a budget of $2.3 million.
Sinagra compared Kingston’s nine square miles including roughly 27,000 residents with a police force of 72 full-timers and a budget of $10 million. The town of Ulster, he said, encompasses 26 square miles, 12,000 residents, a police force of 24 full-timers and a proposed police budget of $2.6 million.
He added that his requested budget for 2016 calls for a 1.5 percent increase, down from a projected 1.8 percent projection he made in January.
After the meeting, Barbaria, who is married to the son of former Police Chief Louis Barbaria, said she still believed the drug problem in Saugerties was rampant and discussion of it “has to come to the front burner.”
She said people familiar with the drug scene have described to her drug deals going down on village streets.
“I want more of a ‘shock and awe’ to come to the front of the table,” she said.
Later, after she reviewing what she called Sinagra’s “self-promoting performance,” Barbaria reiterated her charge that the police force has added two full-time positions.
Sinagra said it is true the department has increased from 22 full-time officers at the start of 2011 to 24 today, but that officer 23 was Sinagra himself, hired in 2011 by the former chief, and so Sinagra has only increased the department’s head count by one since taking over in 2012.