State inspector general: Ward Stone "engaged in improper conduct with virtual impunity"

The state Inspector's General office released a report today accusing former state wildlife pathologist -- and local media figure -- Ward Stone of serial misconduct. Among the allegations the report:

state IG ward stone report cover+ Stone admitted living at the DEC facility in Delmar "half to as much as 75 percent" of the time from 2001 until 2009.

+ DEC employees alleged that Stone made them help him prepare course materials for classes he taught at SUNY-Cobleskill, and chauffeur him to WAMC in a state vehicle so he could record his radio program. "Stone also conceded that when he first appeared on the WAMC radio program, he had staff drive him to the station because he had not been provided a parking spot." [We add: Having parked at WAMC thousands of times, parking is not that hard to find there.]

+ Employees alleged that Stone kept personal chickens, ducks, turkeys, and a puppy at the Delmar facility and used state employees and money to care for the animals. Said one employee: "He tells everyone that the domestic animals are used for research and training needs, but there have been no tests run on these animals, nor does he have the proper certification to use live animals for research purposes."

+ Stone frequently brought his kids to the office and asked state employees to watch them.

+ Stone allegedly did not properly train staff about proper lab and safety protocols. The IG's office says two employees of Stone's office contracted West Nile -- one of them by cutting himself on an improperly disposed scalpel, the other in an undetermined manner. "For such a small staff, two instances of exposure to potentially deadly disease are clearly unacceptable."

+ Following an affirmative action complaint against Stone, the state's Division of Human Rights concluded that "Stone treated everybody poorly, regardless of sex or race."

For what it's worth, the report does credit Stone for his work on PCBs, pesticides, the dangers of mercury and lead in the environment.

The IG's report also faults DEC management for not reigning in Stone, and "while Stone's direct supervisors and other mid-level managers at DEC made serious and persistent efforts to address his conduct through established disciplinary procedures, their efforts at times were deliberately thwarted by DEC's executive management." The report alleges that DEC management was reluctant to discipline Stone because of his profile in the media and public support.

For what it's worth, the report does credit Stone for his work on PCBs, pesticides, the dangers of mercury and lead in the environment.

The IG's report also faults DEC management for not reigning in Stone, and "while Stone's direct supervisors and other mid-level managers at DEC made serious and persistent efforts to address his conduct through established disciplinary procedures, their efforts at times were deliberately thwarted by DEC's executive management." The report alleges that DEC management was reluctant to discipline Stone because of his profile in the media and public support.

The Times Union's Jim Odato, whose 2010 story focused the IG's attention on Stone, reported today that Stone is currently in a rehabilitation facility in Massachusetts for an illness and couldn't be reached. Back in 2010, Stone said the accusations against were intended to be "a smear," possibly because of his work for an environmental group that opposed the LaFarge cement plant in Selkirk.

The full IG's report is embedded below.

NYS IG Ward Stone Report

Comments

Well, it's not like WAMC has ever made a mistake in who they vocally support and passionately idolize. Ward Stone is certainly their first misstep. I mean, it's not like they once gave convicted pedophile Scott Ritter a "person of honor" award or anything. Wait, whats that? Really? Huh.

Betty Jones, many people have appreciated Ward Stone's show on WAMC and none of this seems related (other than his mode of transportation to it). Just like Scott Ritter's opposition to the Iraq war when 90% of the public was screaming for blood has nothing to do with his crimes.

I question why the IG's office would spend resources investigating a *former* state employee for non-criminal charges. I don't know Ward Stone, but from what I hear from friends at DEC he was quite the erm... character. It sounds like a combination of strong ego and weak management allowed his little empire to get out of control, but listening to him on the radio, the man also clearly had a rare passion for his job and brought attention to a lot of important issues.

I have no doubt Mr. Stone rubbed many people the wrong way over the years, but I also know certain former Commissioners and Asst Commissioners at my own agency who felt entitled to commit similar abuses and thefts of state services and I'd have a difficult time siting any positives they brought before moving on to their next appointments. If the point was to chide DEC management for not doing their job, they should've just done it. Instead this seems like latent axe grinding.

@Betty: I'm not going to jump to Scott Ritter's defense, but you should read the recent feature in the NYT. As with most things in life, the whole story is more complex.

I'm picturing a reality TV show along the lines of Undercover Boss and Hoarders

@ Betty, in fairness to WAMC they took off his half-hour show when the allegations first were reported in the TU.

Ward Stone performed analytical tests for communities who feared being poisoned, for wildlife rehabbers who were trying to keep their animals alive, for anybody who needed help -- he tried.
He had a lot of friends when he had the ability to help everybody and his friends included a whole lot of his staff.
Unfortunately, those who have recently left the DEC are prohibited by law from commenting and those who work for the DEC are afraid to comment and tell the positive truth about a scientist who was published in Science Magazine since his retirement and published over 200 peer review articles during his tenure there, with other staff coauthoring and partnering with the DOH and Cornell etc. Since when is a complaint by a disgruntled ex-employee given this much attention? The man opposed hydrofracking from his hospital bed and spoke last week of his findings of contamination in Akwesasne from an aluminum plant dump which is still to be cleaned up. He stands on his science in the midst of this sound and fury. Ward Stone did what the rest of the DEC should have done and they know it.

None of the allegations are that surprising. Ask almost anyone who works for the state.
Doesn't matter who you are in the workforce. What are they gonna do to discipline you? They can't dock your pay, the unions wouldn't have it. They can't reasign you, the unions would freak out. They can't fire you, the unions would be up their butt's about it.

Simply not true karner blue, just look at disciplinary actions in OPWDD and DEC for starters, christ the commissioner of DEC was fired recently. There are different reasons Stone got away with so much for so long, but nice ignorant attack.

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