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Opinion: Board Must Re-Institute Grimes and Gigandet

Written By Editor on 11/18/13 | 11/18/13


Nearly two years ago Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone motioned for an investigation to look into allegations of wrongdoing, misconduct and harassment operating within Schoharie County government. It was initially supported overwhelmingly and soon after developed into one of the hottest points of contention on the Board of Supervisors after the tangled weave of corruption started to become unraveled.

The results of this investigative report, with a final price tag in excess of $300,000 that took almost a year to complete after a firm was selected, was damning to Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington: not only did she systemically work with allies on the county board to take over the Health Department following Kathleen Strack's resignation but she fired several employees within that department and others for blatantly personal reasons.

Among those wrongfully terminated, according to the Fitzmaurice Report, were Penny Grimes and Eva Gigandet, two former employees of the Health Department who were intentionally singled out by Mrs. Ethington and fired for decidedly personal reasons - Ms. Gigandet for example was told by the now-suspended Personnel Director that the federal grant money provided for her position could be "better spent elsewhere" and was summarily released without further reason, which at the time led to confusion on the Board of Supervisors over who exactly was in control of the county's health apparatus.

With early November's suspension of Mrs. Ethington and Friday's appointment of Charity Bender to serve as interim head of the embattled Personnel Office, apparently resolving the ongoing management crisis within one of the county's most important departments, there is still one aspect of this entire affair that must be dealt with: restitution for both Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet.

Both of these hard working and experienced Health Department professionals deserve to be rehired not only on the merits of their job qualifications, which are extensive, but to right the unquestionable wrongs of Ms. Ethington's "reign of terror" that resulted in two years of hell for these women that despite separate lawsuits wouldn't be vindicated until the late October release of the investigative report. 

As the Schoharie News reported earlier, the Board of Supervisors will be meeting on December 10th to both approve of the 2014 public budget and to consider reinstating Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet's jobs into the Health Department's budget. The latter proposal faced mixed support at Friday's county board meeting with lame duck Cobleskill Town Supervisor Tom Murray stating that the State Supreme Court had already ruled that they weren't wrongfully dismissed, apparently oblivious to the contents of the report. 

However, at least to the Schoharie News,  it is common sense that final justice should be served as a result of Fitzmaurice's findings with that being the re-institution of both Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet to the county Health Department, which must be approved at the December 10th meeting by the Board of Supervisors in a demonstration of full understanding of the damaging effects Ethington's tenure had on the daily operation of county government and on the lives of her personal targets, who were fired with complete disregard of their credentials and dependent on Mrs. Ethington's agenda.

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