I have to have sympathy for those charged with trying to figure out Kingston’s latest hospital crisis. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in this rapidly evolving situation, and it’s mind-boggling.

For the sake of this community, I’m hoping the people who planned this merger of two hospitals called the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley (HAHV) and got us to this point — the word “precipice” comes to mind — are capable of assessing their own performance and charting a new course. Right now, I’m hearing too many excuses — it was the economy, stupid, not us — and not enough ideas.

It’s a given that there will be pain, sacrifice and much anxiety. We endured similar trauma four years ago with the merger of Kingston and Benedictine hospitals, and here we go again — minus some $47 million of state aid, which won’t be available this time.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a key player in forming the HAHV, held public informational meetings inKingston and Saugerties last week. Cahill was in his element as host, inquisitor and commentator.

Much of the information forthcoming from a panel of HAHV administrators and overseers had been widely disseminated. But the direct voice of the people has a rhythm and a tone all its own. Rather than hiding behind their computers, residents had the opportunity to directly confront officialdom.

One older woman surveyed the mostly north-of-50 crowd and opined that women’s reproductive rights probably would not be a major issue, as it was first time, “because most of us are past that stage.” I think she was talking chronologically, not   philosophically.

One guy wondered whether the whole organizational concept wasn’t “pre-programmed to fail.” HAHV board Chairwoman Cynthia Lowe gave a less than encouraging answer. If they weren’t able to plan for success, she said in just about so many words, how could they plan for failure?

I wasn’t there on assignment — Lynn Woods did her usual journeywoman work — but I always count noses. I found the crowd sparse, given the issues at hand. The Common Council chambers were perhaps half to three-quarters full, 150 to 175 people at most. As one observer noted, the crowd was notably long in the tooth. Is it only Boomers who are concerned about health care?

Given this was a Cahill production, attendance by officialdom was notably lacking. As noted herein on several occasions, local officials are jealously disjointed. They don’t attend each other’s dances.

I saw a few aldermen slither in and out from meetings in other parts of the building. Jeannette Provenzano was the only county legislator I saw, but legislators don’t stand out in crowds. The mayor said he was busy that night. Apparently somewhere else promoting the “healthiest county in the state,” our county executive was nowhere to be seen. There might have been a staffer lurking about for intel.

There was talk of the community gathering together to work out this complex and far-reaching problem.

I don’t think it’s going to go down that way. Having all our elected and community leaders getting in the same boat, much less rowing in the same direction, is a pipe dream. There’s just too much baggage.

More than likely, the state health department is going to say something like, OK, kiddies, we’ve done it your way. You blew it. Now it’s our turn.

We can only plead for mercy.

The Taggard case

It was, Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley said, “My worst day in office.” Which is to say a house call by the district attorney is not necessarily a good thing.

Last Thursday morning, District Attorney Holley Carnright walked into Quigley’s office and said he needed to talk to him. “We’ve arrested your chief of police,” Carnright said. The supervisor almost choked on the ham and eggs he had for breakfast.

Chief Matt Taggard, a career officer with Ulster and top cop for about two years, had been arraigned in Saugerties Village Court and charged with the “official misconduct” misdemeanor offense of failing to report a crime. The crime involved illegal sex activities, according to authorities, which in police parlance usually means underage victims. Carnright made it clear the chief was not a participant. Otherwise, it is presumed, the charges would have been much more severe.

For Quigley, elected to a second two-year term last November, some of this must have been déjà vu. An investigation of Taggard by state police was under way when the town board appointed him chief in 2010. “We talked to the investigating officers, and they told us there was no credible evidence,” Quigley said.

Quigley was also aware that 10 years previous another BCI investigation had been conducted, with similar results. Thereafter, Taggard was twice promoted.

In our system of justice, a person is either innocent or guilty, the latter beyond a reasonable doubt. In the British system, there are three verdicts: innocent, guilty and unproven.

Until somebody comes up with “credible evidence” — and Carnright obviously believes he has that evidence — the police chief by law is innocent.

The court of public opinion is however, a different matter. Police officers, fairly or not, are held to higher standards than civilians. To laymen, Taggard is on his third strike on similar allegations, counting the current FBI investigation. This is extremely troublesome.

Some of that pall hangs over town hall, where a town board, assured by their supervisor that due diligence had been done, voted to appoint the new chief. “They rolled the dice,” as one observer put it.

How this plays out remains to be seen. But any police officer, especially one in a supervisory capacity, who willingly ignores or fails to report a serious crime, as alleged in this case, has credibility issues that would be difficult to expunge.