NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A highly paid New York state worker is under fire for exaggerating his experiences and qualifications.
He gave a speech with dramatic and questionable claims, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday.
He’s chief of staff at SUNY Upstate Hospital. Sergio A. Garcia is his name and his New York taxpayer-funded salary is a cool $340,000 a year.
But now his job may be in jeopardy, following scrutiny of incredible claims he made last fall during an event at Clemson University in South Carolina.
“We were in a car bombing, explosion. I was in the third car. The bomb went off in the first car,” Garcia said during his speech.
He claimed to have been in Afghanistan with diplomat Anne Smedinghoff when she was killed in 2013. However, State Department records and the Smedinghoff family refute that.
The Albany Times-Union researched Garcia’s background and found no proof of the law degree he claims to have. The newspaper also checked with three recent secretaries of state — Colin P, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
“I’m sitting there and in walks General Powell,” Garcia said, before seguing to his so-called meeting with Rice and an exchange he supposedly had with Clinton.
“An amazing person to learn from. To this day, she’s my mentor. We still talk once a month,” Garcia said.
“I remember telling Secretary Clinton, ‘I ain’t coming back.’ She looked at me like I was nuts, says ‘You can’t leave.'” he added.
All three former secretaries refuted Garcia’s claims.
A psychologist told CBS2 the Garcia controversy appears to be something else entirely.
“Research shows most people regularly tell small lies,” Northeaster University’s Dr. David Desteno said. “I don’t know anything about this individual, but some individuals can be rather narcissistic or egotistical in a way that they just have a sense of they’re not going to be caught, especially if it’s something they have done throughout their lives.”
SUNY Upstate calls the situation “disturbing and troubling.” It put Garcia on paid leave while it investigates. Late Monday, he resigned, CBS2’s Aiello reported.
Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Garcia to the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute. A spokesman said the governor’s office simply approved a list of names submitted by the state university system.