Following a four-month-long investigation, investigators are recommending changes to the Binghamton City Council’s internship guidelines.
The investigation into former Binghamton City Council member Dan Livingston found that he did not violate any city laws by hiring a Binghamton University graduate student for an internship. However, Renee James, the principal investigator of the incident and an attorney at Hancock Estabrook, LLP, did find that Livingston didn’t report his internship to the council, failed to log the required hours of the internship, contradicted a prior memo that stated the internship was with the City Council rather than with him personally and utilized the intern for political canvassing outside of the internship’s objectives, prompting questions from other council members about whether Livingston acted appropriately.
Livingston became the subject of an internal investigation in October 2019 when the City Council became aware that he had an undisclosed BU student intern working for him during summer 2019 through the misuse of University funds and resources. The council then unanimously voted to approve the investigation following a work session.
Livingston said the results of the investigation were “vindicating.” He said he believes that the investigation against him was prompted by his concerns regarding the $400 million Binghamton Sewage Treatment Plant project, which is currently ongoing.
“The report really completely exonerates me,” he said. “This really was a politically motivated hit.”
Livingston, who was a City Council member for Binghamton’s second district, lost reelection last November to Republican Sophia Resciniti, ‘06, a lecturer in BU’s College of Community and Public Affairs.
Thomas Scanlon, City Council president and council member for Binghamton’s seventh district, said in the press release that Livingston declined to cooperate throughout the investigation.
“Despite voting for an independent investigation and making statements in support of it, Mr. Livingston refused to participate and be interviewed,” Scanlon said.
Livingston, however, said he wanted to cooperate with investigators, noting that he was unable to be interviewed when investigators first reached out because of a death in his family.
“We asked if we could participate later in the process and the investigator said we could and she would reach back out,” Livingston said. “But she never did.”
Scanlon, who originally sponsored the investigation, emphasized he sees Livingston’s actions in facilitating the undisclosed internship as a serious abuse of power.
“The results of this report are clear — Mr. Livingston used his elected position to create an unauthorized paid internship for one of his campaign staffers,” Scanlon said. “He did not disclose the internship despite being informed of the process on multiple occasions, including before he took office and in his first weeks on [the] Council.”
The 25-page report published by James also makes recommendations on what future internships with the City Council should look like. The investigator stressed that interns should be focused on supervised work and research experience related to their field of interest, in contrast to performing the supervisor’s administrative duties and attending non-work-related events.
Furthermore, James outlined new internship procedures by dividing internships into three seasonal cycles, facilitating interviews through the City Council, holding orientation sessions and enforcing an unpaid internship policy, stating paid positions would be considered employees rather than interns. He also suggested implementing policies that would limit the planning, economic development, fire and police departments to hiring a set amount of interns per cycle.
It is unclear whether the University will have any input on the new procedures.
Scanlon said the City Council will be making changes based on James’ procedural recommendations.
“City Council will advance additional ethics training and establish intern procedures, as recommended in the report,” he said.
Editor’s note: This article was updated with additional information from former Binghamton City Council member Dan Livingston on Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m.