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Town officials in Bethlehem search for police chief's alleged racist conversation

The town is insinuating Hughes cried foul against Corsi after being served his suspensions. The Bethlehem Police Benevolent Association has filed grievances against the suspensions.

Hughes said he was bringing up internal problems through the chain of command long before he spoke out about the alleged audiotape of Corsi stating, "We have a [racial epithet] in the wood pile."

Potter said the county may hold the audio recordings off site and be the only entity able to erase the recordings, but he could say little else because the matter is under investigation. An official complaint was filed with the Albany County District Attorney's Office Public Integrity Unit on Thursday, May 28.

Hughes said the recording of Corsi was three years old but suggests it sparked a town cover-up once he started raising issues about it. He said he spoke with Supervisor Jack Cunningham at his home about the alleged tape and was issued a "notice of intent to conduct interrogation" two days later about his conversation with the supervisor.

Although he didn't attend the interrogation on advice of his lawyer Steve Coffey, Hughes also sent out a letter to the town board in April that was never handed out by Cunningham. The supervisor said he did not give Hughes' letter to his board members on advice from Potter, who advised against it because of the ongoing nature of the internal investigation.

Potter said everyone with access to the tape was interviewed "to the best of our knowledge," but it is unconfirmed at this time if all the dispatchers and dispatcher supervisors have been interviewed in the ongoing investigation.

Hughes' allegation of an internal racism cover-up raises some questions about the nearly completely Caucasian male police force of 43 officers that serves the suburban town of around 35,000 residents.

There is only one female officer on the force, and she made discrimination allegations against Corsi and Lt. Thomas Heffernan in 2007. The Spotlight ran a story about the matter on July 18, 2007, when police officer Regina Cocchiara, a nine-year veteran at the time, claimed she was passed up for sergeant four times after applying for the job. She said she was passed over for male applicants even though she placed in the top three on the Civil Service exam.

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