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Lawsuit Claim: Ethington's Roles Used in Improper Firing

Written By Editor on 10/19/13 | 10/19/13

With Schoharie County on pins and needles waiting for the Report organized by the Fitzmaurice and Walsh Law Firm further allegations surrounding the hiring and firing practices of the County are coming to light. Further research into the matter showed a series of lawsuits and allegations surrounding the County Personnel Office. Two lawsuits alleged harassment and improper use of civil service regulations at the County.

New documents coming to light support the allegations and expansion of earlier claims. Coming directly from Court documents, we can see a clearer picture argued.

Eva Gigandet was employed by the County Health Department through a Federal grant. This grant covered over 100% of her salary costs. She was dismissed in late 2011 even as she alleged that funding for her position was approved through August 2012. She sued Schoharie County over the firing, claiming that her dismissal was done in bad faith.

When she asked Cassandra Ethington about this, the Personnel Director allegedly stated that money could be 'better spent elsewhere.'

When brought up to the Schoharie County Public Health Committee Meeting there was significant confusion as Ms. Gigandet was told that the decision to terminate employment was made by Mrs. Ethington, who was serving as Interim Health Director, though Ms. Gigandet said that Mrs. Ethington's title was never approved by the NYS Health Commissioner.

Ethington claimed that the recommendation had come from another employee-- further adding to the confusion as even the Board of Supervisors were unsure if Mrs. Ethington was simply the de facto or de jure head of the Health Department. Supervisor Earl van Wormer said that the layoff was not suggested by who Mrs. Ethington claimed. The employee Mrs. Ethington claimed suggested Mrs. Gigandet's dismissal also stated that she had not suggested the termination.

The situation grew more contentious as the updated list of organization in the Department was accused of inaccuracy. Ms. Gigandet's attorneys wrote:
"For some inexplicable reason, Ms. Ethington offers these reports to the Court, attesting to their veracity. The only reason for offering such fictitious documents would be to obfuscate the Court's attention from the County's real reason for terminating Ms. Gigandet's employment."
There are also arguments that Mrs. Ethington's positions as both director of the Personnel Office and the Health Department made such a termination not allowable. Meanwhile, the attorneys argued that the move violated civil service procedure.

At the December 9, 2011 meeting of the Board of Supervisors meeting, employees that were informed that they would be laid off made impassioned pleas for their livelihoods and expressed confusion of why the sudden cuts were proposed.

Penny Grimes, who felt she was being unfairly forced out by the Personnel Department told the Board "Fear and intimidation we have been subject to for one year."

The case was ultimately dismissed by Schoharie County Court. The Judge determined that the layoff was due to budgetary restraints and not for other reasons. Part of the confusion he wrote was due to problems in the Health Department.
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