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Ethington Came Perilously Close to Gaining Control of Majority of Important County Departments

Written By Editor on 11/6/13 | 11/6/13

While the Todd Ethington campaign ended in ignominity last night it only shows part of the unfolding story. As documents, emails, and interviews showed, Cassandra Ethington effectively wielded a great amount of control in County civil service.

However, as more information is coming to light, her role keeping tabs on employees, creating alliances with powerful office holders and department heads, and using fear to keep people from speaking out became devastatingly effective until the Fitzmaurice Report hit the headlines.

Personnel Department

Cassandra Ethington was hired by the County Board after being fired from her previous job for allegedly purchasing concert tickets on the company credit card. Having only an associate's degree from Cobleskill in culinary arts, Ethington allegedly re-wrote the civil service posting for her job as Personnel Director to place herself in the position. (Clarifying edit: The above information comes from various sources involved in the County government.)

Health Department

Cassandra Ethington received help from members of the Board of Supervisors to hand over the County Home Health services to a private company. Assisted by Supervisors such as Martin Shrederis and Bill Goblet, she led the transfer of the services-- which then led directly to her appointment as interim Health Department Director as assisted by Dan Singletary.

Ethington's tenure saw a purge of employees that she deemed a threat. Setting an example, she undermined former Health Director Kathleen Strack and positioned herself to replace her. She fired multiple employees, some under allegedly illegal circumstances and subverted the administration of Asante Shipp-Hilts, who was supposed to serve as de facto  Health Director.

CSEA Union

Cassandra Ethington's role in the local branch of the CSEA union is unclear, but it has become obvious that she held an important kingmaking role with the union. Her role as Personnel Director blocked any employees from appealing straight to the County. Meanwhile, her influence with the union caused employees to feel that she would know about complaints and punish offenders. In fact, her role exposing confidential information allowed her to know intimate details that she could use against employees.

Sheriff's Department

Todd Ethington's victory yesterday would have effectively handed control of law enforcement in Schoharie County to his wife Cassandra. However, even before the race the Ethingtons jockeyed for more control in the Department. Both Todd and Cassandra were vital campaigners for Tony Desmond in 2009-- and reports are circulating that Todd expected a gift (possibly a promotion) for his role putting Desmond over the top.

The Ethingtons soured on Desmond and Cassandra attempted to wrest control from the Sheriff. Her layoff list would have targeted rivals of Todd and decimated the Department-- against the wishes of Desmond. She said that she wanted some of the layoffs to she how 'she could run the jail.'

Board of Elections

Cassandra Ethington attempted to reshape both the staff and the Board of Elections, attempting to take control from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. This effort was rebuffed.

Conservative Party

Todd Ethington was named the Conservative Party's candidate earlier this year. Conservative Party Chair Bill Hanson had been hired by Cassandra-- who manipulated the civil service requirements to force his hiring. The Conservative Party was key in supporting many of Cassandra's allies on the Board of Supervisors, including Martin Shrederis, Dan Singletary, and Tom Murray.

Planning Department

Close Ethington ally Alicia Terry runs the Planning and Tourism Department. Ms. Terry was allegedly involved in Ethington's abuse of civil service law and fired at least one employee under suspicious circumstances.

Budget Office

When County Treasurer Bill Cherry temporarily gave up his role as Budget Officer, Alicia Terry stepped in as one of two new Budget Officers to take his place. Ms. Terry's tenure as Budget Officer allowed Cassandra the latitude to create the parallel 'hit list' of layoffs that devastated the County in late 2011.

Board of Supervisors

For a brief period under the Chairmanship of Ethington ally Harold Vroman, the Conservative Party faction controlled the Board of Supervisors. During this tumultuous period, Ethington accelerated her attempt to take over many Departments, using the flood as a way to manipulate Board members. By 2011, Ethington had control over many important facets of County government and having power that rivaled both the Chair of the Board and County Treasurer. Her control over these differing Departments acted as a trap that would prevent serious inquiries into her activity.

This was changed after the 2011 elections. New Supervisors such as Gene Milone of Schoharie forced the issue. Complaints about Ethington reached an apex in the aftermath of the flood and Mr. Milone took the politically risky step of starting the process that would lead to the Fitzmaurice Report.

For Cassandra Ethington, her effort to control County government and civil service came perilously close to victory. Before the release of the Fitzmaurice Report, her role in the mess in Schoharie was regarded by some as 'hearsay' and a 'witch hunt.' Her control over multiple Departments allowed much of the criticism to be stifled.

It is safe to say that if the Fitzmaurice Report was delayed even further, Todd Ethington and his allies would have done substantially better at the polls. Instead, the succession of the Report and the corruption emerging from the Conservative Party led Mr. and Mrs.'s Ethington's final tally of 15.6% yesterday.
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6 comments:

Friends of the people said...

I was very surprised to read on your site "Ms. Ethington allegedly re-wrote the civil service posting for her job as Personnel Director to place herself in the position". I was a newly elected (not sitting yet) Supervisor of Seward and was invited to sit in on the interview process. I can't imagine how an outside person could "re-write" the posting, what ever the existing qualifications were at the time, she must have possessed them for the Board of Supervisors to approve of her hire, as well as the former Personnel Director to accept her to apply for the job. If this was in the report, Part 1 or 2, I missed it. I would hope you might clarify where you saw or allegedly heard this accusation.

Editor said...

Hi Mr. Phillips,
Our information came from a series of credible sources from across the County, including those that would be in a position to know.

Jesse E. Finn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse E. Finn said...

I have to agree with the previous person; I'm writing a fairly extensive overview of the report and I too have not seen any claims that she manipulated the civil service posting prior to her position as Personnel Director. There was elements of job tailoring by multiple people, including her, and additional manipulation by her after the fact, but as the previous person said there was nothing within the report to suggest, even mildly, that she manipulated it prior to her position.

Furthermore, it's hard to ascertain what her degree is as well because her degree is cited differently in different parts of the report; in one instance someone is saying she has an associates culinary degree (this was never confirmed to my knowledge, this was assumed to be true by one of the interviewed people), but by her own words she has an associates in business management if I recall correctly (I think I read this in both her affidavits and the first part of the report, but I may be wrong; I'm still reading all of the evidence / examples). Regardless her degree in "Culinary Arts" I do not believe was a corroborated assertion, even if it's true, you should reference this so it's clear to people, given the volatile nature of the circumstances.

Yet more, back to the issue of job tailoring / manipulating the qualifications for the Personnel position, the previous person outlines a critical logical element; your conclusions do not follow from the premises. How did she adjust the qualifications when she didn't yet hold a position? Ethington obviously did some less than moral things (things I'm not sure why she hasn't been arrested for it), but those assertions made seem questionable and it'd be interesting if you could reference them. I understand, in addition, that this is a news outlet / journalism and is artistic in nature, but it'd be helpful if you cited sources for the reports so people can verify any statements. If you're privy to things due to personal relationships, that's okay, but again that should be made adequately clear so people aren't confused about the properties of your assertions.

Edit:

References to the previous author or post was to the post made by "Friends of the people," looks like you (the editor) was responding at the same time. Your response clears that up, but I'll note still that you should include that in the article so it's not confusing to people (I have little faith in the idea that most people would make that observation, and that the general community would merely assume it's validity). With that said, I also wanted to say you're doing a wonderful job reporting on the issue (I noticed some false elements, but they're generally minor), especially with putting focus on several of the other people involved. I wish some of the posts were a little less slanted and a bit more neutral, but I'll admit that the present information leaves little incentive or capacity to be neutral.

Anonymous said...

If you underestimate Ethington's tenacity and resourcefulness then you are either a shill or you haven't read the report. She certainly had allies in the right place that enabled her to 're-write' the posting.

Also, the quote: "[Ethington] ...subverted the administration of Asante Shipp-Hilts..."

The report plainly describes Shipp-Hilts' gross incompetence and negligence to her duties as well as lying under oath. I am shocked the BOS decided to stay her execution. She didn't even know what her employee's duties and responsibilities were? What a liar.

Quite frankly I'm surprised any of our incumbents won their campaigns yesterday. All this mismanagement and exposure to litigation transpired under their watch. This petri dish we call 'county government' is completely infected and this Board of Mad Scientists allowed it to cultivate and fester.

When a few slices of bread get moldy, you throw away the whole loaf.

The silliness and partisan backstabbing of the entire board is what cost this county and its residents much more than $300,000.

If there aren't any indictments handed down, then there is no justice.

Jesse E. Finn said...

I'm not sure if you're referring to me or not (your comment in that someone is either a shill or hasn't read the report suggests you're not; a fair size of people inside and outside of the county are well aware I've been investigating corruption in the department building for almost a year, and likewise I said I read the report and I'm still reading all the evidence / examples), but regardless I have to make the point that having allies to re-write the posting, and attributing directly to her the manipulation (and misconstruing her actions) are two different modes of operation. Furthermore, one assertion is fact based, the other is hearsay. And yet more, correlation and causation are two different things; her relationship does not inherently mean that her friends acted on it, and likewise it is fallacious in nature to assume that by relationship one is immediately of equal or similar integrity. It's an indicator certainly, but an indicator is again correlation and not causation. And beyond all this, the mere fact if they did change the requirements for her, why is it attributed to her manipulation and not of their own; why is their presence completely excused from the statement all-together if it was the case that her friends were the ones that changed the requirements?

I'm not diluting the plausibility or possibility of the truth, but merely highlighting the necessity to be clear because this has been one of the biggest problems I've observed (communication).

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