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Shipp-Hilts Affidavit Points to Collusion with Ethington, Perjury

Written By Editor on 11/19/13 | 11/19/13

Details of the infamous Fitzmaurice Report lay out step by step how Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington oversaw a "reign of terror" within county government that resulted in both her control of the Health Department and the termination of public employees based solely on Mrs. Ethington's personal agenda.

This brings us to the curious case of current Health Department Director Asante Shipp-Hilts, who following the Report's revelations of collusion and subordination to Mrs. Ethington, is facing her own removal from power by a Board of Supervisors intent on cleansing the county of the now-suspended Personnel Director's tenure.

Ms. Shipp-Hilts, who has largely escaped public ridicule to this point, appears to have lied in an June, 2012 affidavit in Grimes v. Schoharie County that claimed that after she "arrived at the Department, I was the immediate supervisor of all staff in the Department, plain and simple." Adding that she saw "no rational basis why petitioner would have as she seems to contend, believed Mrs. Ethington was to [sic] holding herself out as head of the Department even after my arrival."

This is directly contradicted by evidence contained within the Fitzmaurice Report that not only documents Mrs. Ethington's takeover of the Health Department - before and during Ms. Shipp-Hilts' county employment started in May, 2011 - but by her own admissions made to investigators. One of which conceded that Mrs. Ethington held the power as the appointing authority in regards to Kim Euler's layoff in late 2011, with additional information showing Mrs. Ethington signed off on it as the "appointing authority and the Interim Director of the Health Department."

Even more troubling is the fact Mrs. Ethington appointed Ms. Shipp-Hilts to the position of Epidemiology Coordinator on April 26, 2011 as the "Appointing Officer with the title of Interim Public Health Director typed under her signature." Which begs the question of how Ms. Shipp-Hilts could have possibly believed she was in charge or made subsequent statements indicating the same when she was clearly hired under the authority of Mrs. Ethington, who was then Interim Health Director.

Mrs. Ethington said as much in a June 14, 2011 memo to Eva Gigandet that stated Ms. Shipp-Hilts "is your immediate supervisor and I am in charge administratively over the health department on a day to day basis until further notice," and again in October, 2011 when she described herself as the "Acting Director, Public Health Department" to co-budget officers Alicia Terry and Paul Brady. Just three months later Mrs. Ethington would sign a letter to then Deputy Director of Public Health Ian Feinstein as the Interim Public Health Director with Ms. Shipp-Hilts listed as only the Epidemiology Coordinator.

All of this proves the glaring inaccuracies of Ms. Shipp-Hilts claims in her June, 2012 affidavit, but that document itself contradicts her past statements in that neither Mrs. Ethington nor Ms. Shipp-Hilts claimed that holding the position of Epidemiology Coordinator constituted control of the Health Department until former health officials initiated lawsuits against the county because of Ethington's actions as Interim Director, with Shipp-Hilts having no say whatsoever in the administrative functions of the department she supposedly was the head of from her appointment in April, 2011 onward.

With November 1st's motion to suspend Ms. Shipp-Hilts fresh in mind, and the Board of Health's subsequent expression of total confidence in her abilities at last Friday's meeting, her fate as Public Health Director could very well be decided by the inaccuracies of both her affidavit and the contents of the Fitzmaurice Report that clearly demonstrate her lack of authority over the embattled department and even that of a subservient role to Mrs. Ethington.
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