LaGrange councilmen sues colleague, private citizen, over 'secret recordings'

Councilman Alfred Rabasco is suing Councilman Richard Ryan and private citizen David Mashiah, claiming Ryan secretly recorded confidential portions of town meetings, gave them to Mashiah and Mashiah posted doctored, misleading versions of the recordings to social media.

Ben Nandy

Feb 24, 2024, 12:14 AM

Updated 55 days ago

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Two LaGrange town councilmen are now in a legal battle over accusations of secret recordings and distributing doctored video of town meetings.
Councilman Alfred Rabasco is suing Councilman Richard Ryan and private citizen David Mashiah, claiming Ryan secretly recorded confidential portions of town meetings, gave them to Mashiah and Mashiah posted doctored, misleading versions of the recordings to social media.
In a civil complaint filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court of Dutchess County, Rabasco's attorney wrote that since November, Ryan and Mashiah posted 47 videos on a YouTube channel, defaming Rabasco.
The channel has since been removed by YouTube.
"It's all politics," Councilman Ryan said when reached by phone Friday afternoon, adding that he never recorded during any executive session.
Executive sessions are portions of meetings that are meant for town board members to discuss litigation or personnel matters.
"He (Mashiah) takes his recordings and does all that," Ryan said, "so it has nothing to do with me."
Councilman Rabasco met briefly with News 12, but said he was unable to directly comment on the legal action.
In an emailed statement to News 12, Rabasco's attorney, Alexandra Downey Thomas, said "it is not proper for people to secretly record others and then manipulate, distrort and edit recorded statements to mislead the public as to what was truly said."
"That is what happened here, and we intend to deal with those that did this seriously and to a firm conclusion," Downey Thomas added.
Rabasco is seeking $10 million in damages.
"They were closed attorney-client privilege conversations," Town Supervisor Alan Bell said of some of the discussions that ended up on YouTube.
Bell said he has asked the town ethics board to look into the recordings, and advise the town on how to respond.
As for the overall dispute involving the councilmen, Bell said he hopes any disruptions to town business can be avoided.
"As long as we can collectively focus on the things that are unrelated to this matter and matter to the Town of LaGrange," he said in an interview at his office Friday, " I think we'll get things done."
Mashiah has been locked in a years-long fight with the town.
He told News 12 he has tried to point out contradictions in the town's ethics and development policies, and that stop-work orders have been unlawfully issued on development at his and others' properties by an unqualified code inspector.
He has also questioned Rabasco's actions and words regarding some town contracts.
Mashiah said he was trying to illuminate problems at Town Hall through the YouTube channel, and denies distorting any video or audio to attack Rabasco's reputation.
"I can lie if I wanted to, but video is video," he said over the phone late Friday. "What he said is what he said."
In one video, Mashiah includes Rabasco saying "I want 50 cents on the dollar," and adds the text, "Bribe?"
Mashiah said it was part of a conversation about a potential tax break for a developer.
The video had thousands of views before being removed from YouTube.
Mashiah was fairly sure he did not post any conversations that took place during executive session, but said any recordings of the closed-door sessions were captured from outside the meeting room.
"I did not post any executive sessions that I may or may not have recorded from outside in the lobby," he said.


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