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Hudson Valley Press

October 24th, 2012

City Manager Herbek withdraws resignation

Newburgh City Manager Richard Herbek
NEWBURGH – City Manager Richard Herbek has become the talk of the town - and not in a good way.

The City of Newburgh community is once again divided by the actions of a city employee. That much was apparent at Monday night’s city council meeting. There were people in support of the manager and those who questioned his recent actions and whether or not he should resign from his position.

Herbek, who has been the city manager since 2009, was pulled over last Wednesday by city police after he picked up 33-year-old Tanya Baldwin in an area known for drug activity. When police realized it was the city manager driving, and saw Baldwin in the passenger seat, they left, but reported it to Police Chief Michael Ferrara.
Chief Ferrara said the officers followed proper protocol and notified him. Ferrara in turn reported the incident to the city corporation counsel.

Herbek claimed he met Baldwin, the woman at the center of the controversy, six weeks prior at the post office and he offered to help her kick her heroin addiction. Baldwin had also been arrested by police during a prostitution sting on September 27, 2012.

This raises the question: What was a high-ranking city official doing with a person who had a self proclaimed drug addiction and an arrest record for prostitution in his 2010 Cadillac SUV in a questionable area at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night?

According to Herbek, there’s an explanation for the whole thing. Herbek told, “She wanted to talk; she wanted to go out for a quick bite and then I dropped her off.”

That explanation, however, brings up more questions than it answers. If Herbek had dropped her off, then why was she still in the car when the officers pulled him over? If Baldwin wanted to talk, then why not connect her with a drug counselor or some other professional who is trained in this area?

To some, “She wanted to talk” and “get something to eat,” sounds more like a date. And if it was, should it be any of the public’s business who the city manager dates?

Many in the council chambers who spoke during the public comment section said it was not their business what the city manager did on his own time. Some felt that if he had indeed done something wrong the police would have arrested him that night. Since no arrest was made, they feel like there was no wrong doing.

Some even quoted the Biblical account of Jesus saving a prostitute from being stoned.

City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy quickly responded. “From the talk that’s going on here tonight you’d think this man walks on the water, that everything that has happened in this city has happened by him alone.”

Herbek, who had resigned Sunday night, withdrew his resignation Monday morning and said he would be staying on. Herbek’s contract with the city expires in January.

“You don’t resign if you don’t feel you did something wrong,” Councilman Cedrick Brown said.

Those who believe Herbek should resign from his position feel that the police should have searched the car and brought in the drug dogs like they would have done for any other drug stop. “He shouldn’t get special treatment because he’s the manager.”

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