Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Intelligent Design

Curious was the immediate and abrupt resignation last week of Patrick Design, the deputy of Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue. Even more curious is the sudden media interest in the DPW’s seldom-spoken two-term number two, who gave up his $62,000-per-year job with the city less than a month after a state Department of Environmental Conservation investigation was launched last month.

Yes, it seems Ahab’s crews and their harpoons are circling a bit closer to the great white whale. Valerie Keehn, in moment of her typical political mudslinging, used the resignation as a stake to pound McTygue’s tenure on City Council to that of embattled former Public Safety Commissioner Tom Curley. She likened the resignation to the fate of Curley’s deputy, Erin Dreyer, who is well regarded as a prime reason the Republicans were voted out of office in 2005.

Of course, it should be noted that Curley did everything in his power to prevent Dreyer’s dismissal, whereas Design simply quit. And it’s tough to draw cogent similarities between an inexperienced whore of a deputy that screwed her way through the police department and a faithful city employee who by many accounts worked tirelessly for the department.

Design managed the department's 90-something employees who run the city's water, sewer, street and building maintenance operations. He was appointed by McTygue in December 2003, replacing Bruce Brown, who had worked one term as deputy. Brown, who took over for now-DPW director Bill McTygue, left the deputy position to take a union job as foreman in charge of the city's compost, concrete and tree crews.
At this point, Design’s resignation could mean just about anything. In his comments to the Daily Gazette Tuesday, McTygue hinted of a “difference of opinion” between him and Design. But the commissioner also showered his former deputy with praise and even hinted that the door was still open if he changed his mind.

There were some indications in February that Design was becoming frustrated with the council infighting. If true, the DEC investigation likely exacerbated this frustration. There’s also a theory that Design was a fall-guy for the DPW’s shortcomings and may have been sacrificed –either voluntarily or involuntarily –as the investigation wraps up. There’s yet another speculation that the 65-year-old deputy was plain tired of working up to 80 hours in a week with no days off in a department now under visible scrutiny by both state investigators and members of the media.

Either way, the resignation doesn’t bode well for McTygue, who already is taking a fair beating in some circles. Of course, many of these barbed harpoons being chucked at the 16-term commish seem awfully similar to the rhetoric Keehn’s supporters have been spouting each time the Times Union blogs mention Gordon Boyd.


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