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Shrederis Colluded to Hand CHHA, Health Dept to Ethington

Written By Editor on 11/4/13 | 11/4/13

After spending hours of time reviewing the second portion of the Fitzmaurice Report released Friday evening, two years worth of county board minutes and holding several off-the-record conversations with members of the board, the Schoharie News has been able to put together the final piece of the puzzle.
That piece?

Uncovering a conspiracy of supervisors, who aligned with the now-suspended Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington, worked in coordination to not only aid Ms. Ethingon's desire to take over the Health Department but also the questionable closure of the Community Home Health Agency in 2010. 

According to the report, Ms. Ethington "interposed herself in the affairs of the Health Department long before she was asked by the County Attorney to handle the closure of the CHHA," and that after "continually imposing herself in the discussions for the sale of the CHHA's license and management of the department."
This was confirmed by not only e-mails between herself and multiple supervisors in the report, but on multiple occasions are clearly stated in county board minutes, most notably during a special meeting in July 2009 when former Middleburgh Supervisor Dennis Richards asked Ms. Ethington to address board members concerning the financials of CHHA, the County and additional issues facing the program. Then Health Director Kathleen Strack argued against closure or sale, while Ms. Ethington used her position to push the advantages of private over public ownership.

Ms. Ethington would continue to subvert the authority of Ms. Strack from that July meeting until the former director's resignation in late 2010, with Fitzmaurice stating that "Ethington actively sought a managerial role within the Health Department even before the director's resignation." She would later email Supervisor Richards in anticipation of Ms. Strack's resignation asking if that "Since I have been doing all of this work already, I would like to be considered for the interim health department team."

In the aftermath of Ms. Strack's resignation, Ms. Ethington ghost wrote a letter of recommendation for herself by then-Wright Supervisor Bill Goblet, who passed away earlier this year, using the Public Health Committee's letter head which she e-mailed back to the Supervisor Goblet for "inspection and distribution." The letter constituted an official grant of authority by Supervisor Goblet, head of the aforementioned committee, who motioned in January 2011 for the board to "request Ms. Ethington to continue in the capacity of managing the health department."

All of this occurred in the months after the county board dealt with CHHA, which despite considerable opposition by county health officials, employees and seven town supervisors, was sold to an outside firm from Rochester on an abrupt motion by Supervisor Goblet in August 2010. Ms. Ethington would later be asked by County Attorney Mike West to "handle the closure of the CHHA."

Multiple sources in County government confirm that former Supervisor Shrederis assisted in the corralling of votes on the Board despite other members' reservations and without the direct collusion of the three Supervisors as directed by the request from Ethington, that the CHHA transfer and, by extension, her stint as Health Director, could not have occurred.

Supervisor Goblet's motion, which was tabled and then untabled in a series of votes, was supported by Supervisor Richards - who initiated the entire process over a year prior - former Supervisor Martin Shrederis and other implied members of Ms. Ethington's email network. Then-Chairman of the Board Earl Van Wormer refused to sign the contract with the Rochester firm, which then Vice-Chair Shrederis signed without complaint.

Angered by the board's decision, Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe stated that he was "appalled at the Board," particularly against Supervisors Richards and Shrederis, adding that when the board gave CHHA time to turn things around that they "were there." He concluded his statement by blasting the process and accusing those included of "soliciting behind the scenes."

Whether it be Ms. Ethington's takeover of the Health Department or CHHA's transition into private hands, there is a clear and documented collusion between the suspended Personnel Director and former Supervisors Shrederis, Richards, and Goblet, with emails showing close ties to additional supervisors who later formed the basis for the Vroman/Conservative faction that has actively opposed and attempted to prohibit the Report's completion.

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