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County DSS Worker Suspended following Hotel Raids
ALBANY - After raids at the Skylane and Blu Bell Motels on Central Ave in Colonie this week, the Albany County Executive has suspended a DSS investigator. Dan McCoy tells CBS6, the investigator never went inside a room at the Skylane to check on the conditions before placing a homeless man there as is required. Investigators uncovered hundreds of code violations including black mold, failing electrical work and no heat and ordered most people living inside both hotels, out. The owner of both properties, Alex Patel is already facing steep fines and may also face criminal charges.
When CBS6 Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with McCoy earlier in the week about how either of these hotels would have been considered acceptable to place people in, he promised to pull the inspection records and look into it. On Friday, he suspended the DSS worker. " Being code certified myself, I read his report and I'm telling you, there's no way someone walked into that room and didn't find something wrong with it," McCoy says.
Albany County alone has paid nearly two million dollars to the owner of these two shuttered hotels over the last several years. Inspectors from DSS are supposed to visit a room, fill out a checklist and make sure it's up to par before the county shells out $40 per night but it appears in at least one case at the Skylane, the inspector skipped a few steps, "he probably saw that they had all their paperwork in the front office but didn't go the extra step of physically going in," McCoy says.
Had he gone inside, he would have noticed some glaring issues, "my bathroom didn't work, my heat didn't work, my door wouldn't lock, I would complain to the management and they told me if I didn't like it, I could leave," says Edward Stover who lived at the Skylane before it was shut down on Monday.
The bigger issue, according to McCoy is finding hotels that will work with counties. When the shelters that they contract with are full, local counties look to hotels to try and find a place for those in need, "they don't want this cliental, so literally my workers at DSS go through the phone book and they start calling hotels and saying would you accommodate us, would you take us on and this is what we end up with," he says. McCoy says while the need to call hotels at all has decreased in Albany County by 75% over the last few years due to more contracts with shelters, when it does happen it needs to happen the right way.
Albany County DSS will be sending inspectors back out to all of the rooms that the county is currently pay for, to make sure they don't look like the rooms at Skylane and Blu Bell did. "I am not happy, I'm taking full responsibility and we're going to do our checks and balances because we owe it not just to the people, we owe it to the families that are living in these hotels," McCoy says.