The Putnam Examiner

Ailes’ Name to be Placed on County Facility Amid Controversial Allegations

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Roger Ailes might be out at Fox News, but Putnam County officials signaled last week allegations of sexual harassment haven’t deterred them from still putting the Garrison resident’s name on the new senior center in Cold Spring.

Ailes resigned from his position at Fox News last week amid rising allegations that he sexually harassed multiple female employees at the network, according to reports. Ailes was given a more than $40 million severance package and is staying on as a consultant until 2018, according to reports. He was not formally terminated for cause and the lawsuit brought forward by a former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who brought the accusations forward, is still pending.

Ailes and his wife Beth donated $500,000 that is meant to pay for interior construction of the senior center for seniors on the west side of the county. In return, Roger Ailes is going to have the center named the “Roger Ailes Senior Center” with a sign in the lobby.

Several years ago, the county passed a law that stated no living person could have a county facility named after him or her until five years following their death. The issue came to light when former county executive, the late David Bruen, was considering running for office again and his name was on the county office building.

Then in May, the county Legislature voted 7-1, with one abstention, to change the law and leave it up to legislators to decide if a person should have his or her name attached to a facility.

In an interview Friday, County Executive MaryEllen Odell said legislators have indicated they are committed to naming the center after Ailes. Odell, who noted she hasn’t followed the news about Ailes closely, said he made a generous donation to the community and “that in itself is 500,000 reasons why we would continue on naming the senior center the Roger Ailes Senior Center.”

“Right now, they’re allegations. In America, still, even as crazy as the world is today, in America we’re still innocent until proven otherwise,” Odell said. “As far as I know there’s been no criminal allegations, there’s been no criminality to it. This is a workplace issue and that’s where it stays.”

Legislators voted last week during a Physical Services Committee meeting to move forward with plans on the senior center, including naming the facility after Ailes.

In an interview, Legislature Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino stood by having Ailes’ name on the center.

“While the allegations facing Roger Ailes are concerning, it does not diminish the fact that his generous donation to the Butterfield project was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition,” Nacerino said.

She added seniors have waited many years for the new center to finally come to Cold Spring and for some it’s a dream come true.

“His half-a-million dollar contribution was specifically designated towards this senior facility and one could never argue the goodness with that intention,” Nacerino said.

Legislator Roger Gross also said he no problem with Ailes’ name on the senior center because of how much it benefits seniors and the west side of the county.

“I realize that usually where there is smoke, usually there is fire,” Gross stated, referencing the sexual harassment allegations. “but remember in our nation, one is innocent until proven otherwise.”

Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents the district and has been an advocate for the new senior center during her term, has also indicated her willingness to have Ailes’ name on the building.

But not everyone is as willing to put Ailes’ name on the facility following news of sexual harassment claims against him.

Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy said it would be a “disgrace” if the county moved forward with naming the facility after Ailes. He specifically challenged Scuccimarra to represent the interests of most residents in her district by rejecting the potential naming.

Merandy said Ailes’ name on the senior facility is especially insulting to the Lahey family, who has Carolyn Lahey’s name on the pavilion on the outside and would have Ailes’ name on the inside for the center.

“I don’t know what they change it to,” Merandy said. “But it definitely shouldn’t be the Roger Ailes Senior Center.”

Several other local officials from the west side of Putnam declined comment over the matter or could not be reached.

Legislator Dini LoBue, who was the only lawmaker originally to vote against changing the local law to allow Ailes’ name on the building, is adamantly against his name on building given the recent news.

“As a women and a legislator, I am personally shocked and offended that as leaders of this county, MaryEllen Odell and fellow Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra have elevated (allegations of) sexual harassment to a prominent place of honor as ‘The Roger Ailes Senior Center; in exchange for a $500,000 now dishonored donation,” LoBue said.

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