, pub-2480664471547226, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Home » » The Comprehensive Schoharie County Department of Health Dr. Gildemeister Report

The Comprehensive Schoharie County Department of Health Dr. Gildemeister Report

Written By Editor on 3/3/23 | 3/3/23

By Matthew Avitabile

SCHOHARIE — The December decision by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors to end its financial relationship with Health Director Dr. Amy Gildemeister has sparked a controversy that has encompassed nearly every element of local politics.

Our newspaper has taken special care to not engage in speculation or rush out incomplete details about the Schoharie County government’s actions and response from the state.

As such, we’ve spent the last two months compiling a number of different accounts regarding the role of Dr. Gildemeister in both county government and public health to get the most complete view to date.

We compiled the testimony of more than current and former county employees and local officials to get as much information as possible.

The Mountain Eagle has sparsely used pseudonyms for sources, but due to fear of retribution, we included several testimonies of individuals in such a fashion. We have deliberately obfuscated the current and former status of employees to reduce the chance of retaliation. None of those cited in such a fashion are current or previous elected office holders. In addition, we’ve spoken to others beyond those cited for background information. For the sake of clarity, Dr. Gildemeister is referred to as “director” even though her position is currently occupied by an interim director. Dr. Gildemeister resigned from the position as director on February 8th and has since been hired by the state health department.

As a writer’s note, I entered into this process with a positive impression of several of the key players involved in this ongoing situation. This included Supervisors Federice and Skowfoe, who this paper endorsed each several times. It also included Dr. Gildemeister and Dr. Korn. I have done my best to reach out to every relevant person I could get a hold of. At least one person I attempted to reach out to has passed away and several had out-of-service numbers. The only potential sources I intentionally did not reach out to were the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties in the county to reduce the chances of this being a partisan fight.

There are areas of deep disagreement between those who support and oppose Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure as health director. Both sides agree that the doctor is especially intelligent and that the health department is chronically understaffed, but for different reasons. However, the county board’s non-reappointment of the director was either caused by severe mismanagement by Dr. Gildemeister or political payback by the board of supervisors, depending on the perspective.

It is important to compile the information and allow the reader to decide.


The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors’ December 20th vote to not reappoint Health Director Amy Gildemeister gained notable attention, especially after her nine years in the job. The resulting firestorm has, so far, not resulted in a complete view of the circumstances leading to the decision.

Much of the disagreement over a new six-year tenure is due to the unique circumstances in which New York handles local health administration. Since Schoharie County has fewer than 250,000 people, state law states that the position of "public health director may be employed in lieu of a commissioner of health" and that the position "with appropriate medical consultation, administers and manages the public health programs within a county."

This results in a unique and clumsy bifurcation of duties if four health directors leaving the county under various circumstances over the last fifteen years is any indication. The public health director is chosen by and technically answers to the Schoharie County Board of Health, comprised of seven medical experts. The funding for the position ($84,287 in 2022 according to public records) is provided by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, comprised of 16 elected members.

Furthermore, while the Board of Supervisors can technically withhold funding for the position, which it did in December, the authority regarding appointment comes from the state. State law states, “All appointments to the position of public health director and the appointment and arrangements for the medical consultant are subject to the approval of the State Commissioner of Health.”

The decision to withhold funding for the position in December walks a fine line legally. The Board of Health voted unanimously in favor of a new six-year appointment, while the Supervisors voted nine to five with two absences against funding the position under Dr. Gildemeister’s leadership. Due to weighted voting by population, had the two absent supervisors, Supervisor Jeff Haslun of Richmondville and Supervisor Wes Laraway voted “yes,” the measure would have passed.

In compiling several dozen interviews, it became clearer that perspectives on the dismissal were heavily influenced by the role of the individual speaking. Members of the board of health viewed the appointment issue as one of policy and qualifications. Members who voted to not renew the director’s contract on the board of supervisors looked at the administrative details of the position.

Furthermore, interviews and a review of minutes from the county board of supervisors show one clear aspect. Had the vote regarding the appointment been taken with all members present, the result likely would have been different.

The vote on the reappointment of Dr. Gildemeister had been tabled prior to the start of the December 20th meeting. When Supervisor Skowfoe requested the vote, Board Chair and Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice asked Mr. Skowfoe if he wanted to proceed with two prospective “yes” votes not being present. Mr. Skowfoe said yes, saying that the action was upon the advice of Board of Health member Dr. Roy Korn. Dr. Korn said that he did advise going forward with a vote, but not necessarily at that particular moment.

While Dr. Gildemeister has publicly thanked Supervisor Skowfoe, including later in this article.

The whole picture showed all respondents describing Dr. Gildemeister as an intelligent, motivated individual. She received mostly-positive reviews regarding her grasp of policy, especially during the challenging period of the pandemic. Most of the testimonies we compiled indicated that Dr. Gildemeister struggled in running an active office.

The interviews resulted in a number of revelations not yet discussed in local press. Despite denials, Dr. Gildemeister was the subject of at least two written complaints and was described as being involved in a number of conflicts with at least three other county departments. Whether or not these conflicts were due to others or the director is for the reader to decide.

While there was supporting evidence in favor and opposed to Dr. Gildemeister’s policy and administrative skills, the one portion that accrued no significant evidence was that the firing was a direct result of enforcing COVID policy. While several assertions were made regarding this, including citation of general frustration by supervisors several years ago and differences of opinion regarding the severity of the virus, the only documentation provided was a recent letter to the editor by Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner, which did not rise to the level of recent accusations that the supervisors vote was an anti-vaccine or anti-mask sentiment.

We reached out to Mr. Tavenner twice for comment but did not receive a response.

Furthermore, much of the disagreement over perception came down to the knowledge at hand in December. Members of the board of health reviewed Dr. Gildemeister’s own report and received updates from the board of supervisors through its representative from that body, Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe.

Schoharie County’s two-month struggle over who should helm the health department reached its zenith on February 6th. Dr. Amy Gildemeister tendered a letter of resignation addressed to the Schoharie County Board of Health due to "deliberately imposed conditions designed to severely restrict my ability to effectively carry out my duties as the Director of Public Health for Schoharie County." She stated in the letter the belief that the county board's actions were "reckless" and chose to "ignore the professional judgment and statutory rights and obligations" of the board of health, which "endangers the health and welfare of the citizens of Schoharie County." 

She argues that the county board "damaged my personal and professional reputation and created a hostile work environment.”

 "Due to the barriers erected by the Board of Supervisors, I simply cannot accept the legal responsibilities for performing the duties of Director of Public Health," she wrote. She personally thanked Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe for "his long-standing dedication to public health and his tireless work on behalf of the people of Schoharie County."


It all started very differently nine years ago.

Dr. Gildemeister joined the county government as Director of Public Health in September 2014 following time teaching chemistry and forensics at SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Canton, and Clarkson University after receiving a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Science from the University of Michigan in 2001. 

Many employees describe Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure as difficult, and one that most describe as poor prior to the pandemic. The consensus of the employees we spoke to stated that the managerial tenure became worse over time after Dr. Gildemeister split the personnel into in-groups and out-groups.

The tipping point was pandemic, in which serious strain and changing state rules pushed the department and its director’s leadership to the brink.

Most of the employees we spoke to expressed fear that if they used their names, they would be used by Dr. Gildemeister or the members of the board of supervisors against them. The word “retaliation” or “retaliate” was commonly used.

We received a list of nearly two dozen individuals who left the health department during the tenure of Dr. Gildemeister and were able to speak with a large number of them. We also were able to speak to a significant number of current employees in county government in and out of the health department.

One account from a nurse, Employee A, with 30 years of experience in the health department paints a difficult situation. The nurse stated that she retired due to what she described as “nonsense” during Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure. During COVID, the nurse returned to the county health department after retirement to assist, but “decided it just wasn't worth putting up with Amy.”

Another nurse, Employee B, described the tension in the department, claiming that Dr. Gildemeister was aloof. She described an argument with the doctor, claiming that Gildemeister was not engaged with knowledge of county government and did not care enough to learn more.

Employee B described the situation between the health director and other county departments as poor.

Employee A stated that there was “a hostile work environment” and that the director was “moody, rude, [showed] favoritism and over-shared personal business between employees.” One description stated that open criticism of employees by the director was a daily occurrence. Another employee stated that over time, in-office celebrations of birthdays and special events were severely limited unless the director was taking part.

The situation continued after the crest of the pandemic. During this period, two long-term nurses left and were replaced by two new ones. Both new nurses quit “within a year because of issues with Amy,” according to Employee B. Further investigation revealed that both left, but under similar, but different circumstances.

One of the two new nurses filed a grievance with the county prior to leaving her position.

Employee B’s testimony stated that the director “created an extremely hostile work environment.”

“She exhibited extreme favoritism toward some employees and had different standards for her favorites versus other employees.”

“She was arrogant and rude and treated the professionals under her like children. She denigrated employees to other employees, sharing personal details about them.”

The nurse continued, “She was completely unprofessional and unsuited for any position that gave her any kind of power over other employees.”

Employee C described a similar situation, stating that the director “put her own needs in front of anyone else” and “needed to be the center of attention.”

Dr. Gildemeister was “never able to be at fault,” according to Employee B, and “always painted herself as the victim.”

She “triangulated people against one another to deflect from the consequences of her own mismanagement” and “employees knew better than to disagree or present alternate views on any subject.”

Employees were often ostracized and allegedly specifically targeted or “punished” for “doing the very things she would do but could not see that she did.”

The nurses accused the director of spending time accruing influence, “removing her time and attention from matters at hand in the department.”

In particular, much of the attention surrounding the County Board of Supervisors’ actions included the opposition of the County Board of Health. Employees stated clearly that they believed that the structure of county government prevented the members of the board of health from seeing concerns of personnel.

Another former employee stated that the structure of the County Department of Health was set up so that the director would be “untouchable.” Since grievances filed against Dr. Gildemeister would be sent to the union or the Personnel and Civil Service office, they would be confidential and not shared with the Board of Health.

“The union was completely useless,” she said.

A fourth member of the department, Employee D, stated that the entire workplace environment was based on the director’s mood. There was no chit-chat or joking allowed unless Dr. Gildemeister was in a good mood. This employee stated that there was a “toxic environment” where dissent was not allowed and favoritism was prioritized.

A fifth member, Employee E described the tenure of Dr. Gildemeister as one of “tension, employee favoritism, challenging if you didn’t believe as the administrator did.”

A sixth employee, Employee F, stated that she was specifically targeted by the director. After a disagreement over COVID policy, the employee believes that she was specifically singled out. In particular, according to the employee, Dr. Gildemeister or another person in the department shut off comments on the health department’s Facebook page. The employee asserts that this action is illegal and that she believes it was done by the director herself.

Employee F feared for her position in the county.

“I knew it was retaliatory,” she said. 

Employee F cited several incidents that happened during Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure. This included bringing her child who was sick and home from school. Within several days, most of the people in the department contracted illnesses and then were criticized by Dr. Gildemeister for taking time off.

“She was terrible.”

Employee F described an office full of tension and a situation where other county employees would avoid transferring to the health department. In one case, according to one of the employees, another employee was able to work a full-time position just one hour a day. When the individual retired, an employee recommended folding these responsibilities and distributing them among the other members of the team, which was firmly rejected.

When there were issues related to employee bullying, one employee accused Dr. Gildemeister of inaction. This included arranging desks to draw attention to an employee out of her favor.

One of the employees described a situation in which Dr. Gildemeister circulated an official document from the department with allegedly false information to local school districts. When this was brought up to the Personnel Department, its members agreed the letter was unacceptable and the word was then passed to the union by an employee. The union did not follow up.

Employee F argued that Dr. Gildemeister entered into the position with few administrative skills. The county health department is responsible for completing forms for state aid. Due to alleged mismanagement by the director, an in-house task meant to be completed by employees was instead contracted out to an outside accounting firm at the expense of the county. County Board of Health Committee meeting minutes place this cost at $19,750 as of 2015.

One employee stated that during Public Health Committee meetings early in her tenure, when directly questioned, Dr. Gildemeister relied on employees to provide answers on her behalf, to which one supervisor would criticize her, at one point shouting at her not to have employees answer for her. This was such the case, that the director would come back from meetings physically shaking.

Employee G stated that “there’s always going to be favoritism. It’s always going to be part of the game.”

“I wasn’t a favorite son,” he said. “Because I wasn’t going to back down.”

“When it was time to go, it was an easy decision.” The employee added that Schoharie County’s coronavirus response was comparable to that of other government agencies.

When asked to describe Dr. Gildemeister’s leadership qualities in one word, Employee G declined to give one. When asked about her non-reappointment, the employee said that he wasn’t surprised but described Dr. Gildemeister as one of the better supervisors, especially when employees agreed with her. The employee took special note not to disagree.

“You reap what you sew,” he said. “No amount of pride is going to help. If you’re riding on the coattails of arrogance, as a person might have because they know better, good luck with that.”

“I’m just glad I’m not there in the middle of it,” he said. “I lived it already.”

Employee H spoke about Dr. Gildemeister’s “tyrant attitude.” The doctor’s attitude was “I’m smarter than everyone in the room,” the employee said. 

While very bright, the doctor had no interpersonal skills, the person said.

The employee said that two other employees quit specifically because of her.

When hearing that she was not reappointed, Employee H said they were not surprised. “Not at all.”

“She could have done so much better if she led in a better way.”

“She is a very intelligent person,” the employee said. “There are jobs for people like that. Public health director is not one of them.”

Employee I described Dr. Gildemeister as a “good person,” but who was completely unprepared for the pressure of the pandemic.

The employee cited significant issues between the director and other county departments. This included the inability to create COVID-related policy. This resulted in major pandemic documentation having to be done outside of the health department.

“It came down to leadership,” the employee said.

“Very hard to work with.” This included badmouthing county administrator Steve Wilson to other employees, including calling him an idiot during meetings.

The relationship improved over time, but it took three years to repair, as according to the employee, Dr. Gildemeister “thought she was better than us.”

Employee J said that Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure was marred at the start of the pandemic as emergency preparedness within the department was “flustered on day one.”

Regarding working with others, “it depends on who it was.”

“She believes that the county was more favorable to men than to women. That’s for sure.”

While polite to the employee, the employee described Dr. Gildemeister’s aversion to communicating with men directly.

We approached another employee, K, who was described by several other employees as being one who filed a grievance against Dr. Gildemeister. While the employee described Dr. Gildemeister as a “bully” that ruined their chances of receiving a pension, we were unable to speak to the person in more detail or receive a copy of the report after multiple calls and texts.

A final employee we were able to talk to, Employee L stated that the county Department of Health “was and apparently still is the most professional place I ever worked in.”

“The board of supervisors should not be in charge of what is supposed to be a professional medical / health organization. And they do not like to see highly qualified employees making the salaries which they are due per civil service rates.”

“Good to Excellent”

While a number of employees sharply criticized the director, others were quick to defend her as a bright and motivated individual.

Debra Wollaber is a current nurse with a doctorate and significant experience in public health policy and administration. She was a dean and former president at Belmont University and served on a dispute panel for nurses during her tenure there. She also served as the president of the Tennessee Center for Nursing.

By 2020, Wollaber was retired and ran into Dr. Gildemeister at church and offered her services to assist in the pandemic. When the virus worsened, Wollaber was hired as a COVID investigator for the county in November 2020. During this period, after two nurses left, Wollaber served concurrently as a public health nurse and worked in the department of health three to four days per week until the end of 2021. When two new nurses were hired, she retired again.

Wollaber described the two nurses leaving due to a high workload.

“They were tired,” she said. This included a workload of 365 days per year, she said.

Dr. Wollaber said that she has worked with a variety of leaders over the year, and rated Dr. Gildemeister as between “good and excellent.”

“She listens to people within her organization,” Wollaber said, “she takes their recommendations and reports and responds very directly and respectfully.”

Wollaber described several employees “giving [Dr. Gildemeister] trouble” during her tenure. This was described as an issue with protocol.

One employee was “very problematic” and another should have been fired with cause, she said. One left the county health department, Wollaber said. The other is no longer with the health department. A third, she said, would not enforce COVID policies and is no longer with the department.

A particular issue within the office at the time was that several employees refused to be vaccinated, Wollaber said.

The county board desired a separate COVID response, she said.

“It has a lot about how well-educated, how well-put together, and how assertive…and Amy’s ability to be very direct, trying to address things that needed to be changed,” she said.

“The Board of Supervisors” disapproved of Dr. Gildemeister’s opposition to “Steve Wilson kicking the can down the road,” Wollaber said.

Wilson’s presentation on future county decisions, Wollaber said, was not well-prepared and appeared to her to be a means to create a “power base” within the county.

“[Dr. Gildemeister] was very, very outspoken against it,” she said.

“COVID did have a part” in the Dec. 20th vote, Wollaber said. There are members of the board of supervisors that do not believe that the virus is worse than the flu, she said, adding that she believes that it is “so very wrong.”

The December decision, she said, was a combination of the two factors.

Wollaber said that some employees may have felt there was favoritism in the office because of “significant disappointment” over not receiving what they believed they deserve, such as pay or promotions. However, Wollaber said that not once during her year in the office, she saw Dr. Gildemeister disrespect an employee.

“She really tries the best that she could,” she said. Wollaber added that Dr. Gildemeister attempted to find solutions, but was not afraid to say no. Some within the general public may have disagreed with the health department when it attempted to enforce state mandates.

Wollaber said that she believed that there was a feeling of camaraderie within the office. There was also frustration over changing state guidelines, but “not because of the leadership. It was because of the situation.”

“We were working together to try to make the most out of a bad situation,” she said. 

While the health department was subject to several lawsuits during Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure, Dr. Wollaber said, but that it was not the fault of the director. This included the suit from Oorah and another lawsuit from a former employee.

We interviewed ten additional individuals involved with the Schoharie County Health Department. Like the employees above, they requested that their identities be protected by a pseudonym. Their impressions of the tenure of Dr. Gildemeister was far more positive.

Among the responses from ten employees, there were several major themes. One stated that the director's tenure "was able to unify the staff to work as a well-oiled team." 

Another stated that Dr. Gildemeister was "excellent" and "well-respected" prior to the pandemic and that the director was "appropriate" and fair in the use of pandemic rules. 

She was described as fully supporting the health staff, and called an "excellent leader. Even during difficult times, the employees stated that the doctor acted "professionally and effectively." 

The director was described as having a "huge heart" and fostering "an environment where everyone had a voice and advocated for those that didn't," adding "if you didn't do your work, played games, or lied, she would work with you to [the] correct path. 

One response cited a tenure with the health department of two and a half years and described Dr. Gildemeister as a "steady, calm, available, and confident force." The employee added that Dr. Gildemeister "trusted that staff knew what needed to be done and "embraced the responsibilities of her position with her full attention, even in the direst of times. 

Another employee said that the director needed "to be recognized for the accomplishments she achieved" during her tenure. Describing the health department prior to 2019 as in "disarray," the employee described a situation without "consistent leadership and a constant fear of losing their jobs." The employee added their belief that Dr. Gildemister "was able to build a new team that has already accomplished so much." 

The same employee described the supervisors' action as a "personal vendetta" due to COVID enforcement. 

"They were solely focused on removing Dr. Amy from her position since they did not agree with the COVID restrictions. The board of supervisors then made up false charges against Dr. Amy and did not even have the decency to inform her of their concerns." 

The employee accused the county board of desiring to dismantle the Health Department and combine it with Otsego County's to be run by former County Administrator Steve Wilson.

When asked about Dr. Gildemeister's strengths and weaknesses, most of these responses came back as strengths. The employees described her as having 'the knowledge to be a leader" and to "flawlessly execute state laws and regulations."

Another employee described Gildemeister's tenure as a "tight ship." 

"If you do your job she has respect for you." 

Another employee stated that the director's "greatest strength is her voice," describing Dr. Gildemeister as a "great communicator." 

"I think her voice scared the supervisors. He weakness-- she's not a man. I think the supervisors would've really liked her management style if she were a man. 

Another employee called her a "strong, confident, competent leader" who can inadvertently be "intimidating without realizing in the moment; however, she does take measures to correct any miscommunication as soon as it is recognized. Another employee described Dr. Gildemeister as being "able to stand up for herself," but had a weakness in giving in to poor employees, in which "a number of people have taken advantage of her trust and kindness claiming that they were not treated fairly when in fact they were not performing their job correctly.”

Another employee described the director as "extremely knowledgeable and intelligent and holding "staff accountable to do their jobs." The same employee described the director as "on Zoom meetings a lot" during the pandemic and "didn't have a lot of time to relay information to the staff. In terms of major elements related to the job, another employee rated Dr. Gildemeister's strengths from a range of A+ to B-, with the poorest mark because the director could not get the county supervisors to "recognize the expertise of Department of Health employees. 

Another employee stated that there were no considerable weaknesses in the director's tenure.

When learning of the supervisors' vote, employees shared a number of negative reactions, including feeling "like I had been punched in the gut" after "a grueling three years of sacrifice." 

Another pseudonymous employee said that they were "devastated" upon hearing the news, saying that there "is now no focus/mission point unifying employees." 

A separate employee described "complete disbelief" and that "this could have been handled with more respect and concern for all involved." Another stated that they believed the supervisors did not believe in "preserving public safety when scofflaws endanger others. 

Another employee described the dismissal as "destroy[ing] the morale of an entire department. One employee stated that they believed that the Supervisors' decision was done through "a lot of assumptions" while not "providing the facts when it comes to decision making," describing the board as bullies and in a "Good Boys Club." 

Another testimony stated that they believed there was little transparency to the situation and cited the NY Acting Commissioner of Health's letter. 

"Had they gone about this in a fair, by-the-book way, my response to this question would have been different. I object to the "bully" energy they exerted. The same employee cited a meeting with four town supervisors in which a "lack of trust" was reinforced but that was "the only time they came to us. Never before and never since." 

"Chavinism has a "feel" and that feeling is here. And I'm not a paranoid person, nor do I "look" for chauvinism. Not everything is "man vs. woman," again, fair is far. But this situation really holds this feeling for me."

In our final question, we asked if there was anything the public should know. These employees praised Dr. Gildemeister. 

One said that there was a need "as a community, and a department" to "move forward and not allow the past to harm the future." 

Another said that the supervisors placed "your lives" from the hands of a health professional to their own.

Another stated that there could be more the director is not yet "comfortable at some point in divulging," adding the belief that the non-appointment was not due to "any personnel problems or disgruntled employees (except for those who were held accountable and left or did not pass probation." 

Another cited Supervisor Tavenner's letter to the editor. The employee stated that the department is "a close-knit group of hard-working individuals who care very much about each other." The employee stated that Dr. Gildemeister fostered respect and described the pandemic as politicized. 

Another employee stated that the "personnel issues that have been brought up against Dr. Amy came from workers who were not able to perform their job as they were supposed to." The employee stated that the director was "wrongly accused of being unfair and only singling out individuals." 

"The board of supervisors must understand that the enforcement of public health laws is actually good for a business because it ensures the business is providing a safe product or service to its customers." The employee cited a need to "encourage compliance instead of defiance" in the future. 

Another employee stated that "the battle to keep Dr. Amy is lost" and that her departure left the department "understaffed; overworked; poor morale" and limited capacity for operations. The employee called for "Republicans who believe freedom should be accompanied by personal responsibility must run for election" to replace the current supervisors. The employee said that the "current staff is working extremely hard to maintain services despite these obstacles" but was "ready to support and help a qualified new Director if someone qualified can be found who is willing to work with this Board of Supervisors.”

A last employee testimony stated that there is little interest in working for the county at the current time and criticized recent decisions regarding county benefits, describing Schoharie County workers as "way underpaid and do not meet the average salary in the state or nation."


To get perspective, we spoke to the former board of health director and former Richmondville town supervisor Betsy Bernocco.

Bernocco said that she was “appalled” by the Dec. 20th vote of the board of supervisors.

While she did not know the director well, Bernocco was impressed by her resume and intelligence. In particular, she said that the current situation fits a wider pattern of county departments pushing back against intelligent women in positions of leadership.

“I’m surprised that it took this long.”
“Shame on the board of supervisors,” Bernocco said.

“Sometimes you have to get stern with people,” she said. There was little choice for the county health director to enforce state COVID regulations.

Regarding the board of supervisors, she said “they did everything wrong.” She added that during her years of service in town, village, and county politics, such a large decision has to be done correctly.

“What happened at the board level” that the supervisors believed that they had the power, she asked.

“They didn’t have the power,” she said.

In the past, when there were similar personnel concerns during her time as president of the board of health.

“That’s the way that it should be done,” she said.

If the Supervisors didn’t agree with Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure, the next step should have been a full discussion between the two boards.

“It all goes back to the law,” she said. To be let go from such a position, there would have to be a significant reason to not reappoint unless you had complaints from “employee after employee after employee.” If the state allows the removal, it sets a precedent.

The former supervisor also added asked what the ramifications for the board of supervisors and county could be, especially as “people from the surrounding counties view our state of affairs,” asking if it would affect economic growth or undermine “trust in the future of Schoharie County.”

Because of the canceled vote due to the snowstorm in December, the rescheduled Dec. 20 meeting occurred at a time when two prospective keep votes were not present to vote.

The worst part, Bernocco said, “she did not have a chance to defend herself.”

“No matter what they think of Amy, they didn’t do it legally. That’s the clinch.”

Inter-Office Fighting

Several employees and town supervisors cited poor relations between Dr. Gildemeister as director of the health department and multiple departments within county government, which devolved into at least one case of shouting.

Multiple individuals involved cited a poor relationship between former County Administrator Steve Wilson and Dr. Gildemeister. Wilson attempted to defend the director’s record early in her tenure, but Dr. Gildemeister had a particular issue with him, especially over time. Below, Dr. Gildemeister does not discount tension between her and the administrator.

The fight over the health department has spilled over into wider county government. Flashy media headlines and messages from the local Democratic Party accused the Board of Supervisors of relieving Dr. Gildemeister over COVID policy. However, according to employees and members of the board of supervisors, that is not the case.

Several supervisors have been tight-lipped about the topic. Several of those who voted to end the funding for the director’s position stated that it was a personnel issue.

Seward Supervisor Earlin Rosa was candid in his response.

“It was solely an administrative response,” he said.

Rosa stated that Dr. Gildemeister’s actions in her position were disruptive. He said that she is “more political than she is a doctor.”

Rosa stated that members of the board of supervisors are acting under the counsel of County Attorney Michael West.

Regarding a possible lawsuit, Rosa said, “we’re ready to go.”
“We’re not looking backward,” he said. “We’re looking forward.”
While there was more that the Seward Supervisor wanted to comment on, he added, “the public needs to know we’re bound by duty in executive session.”

Rosa added Dr. Gildemeister continued coming to work following the December county board decision even with her passcodes deactivated and the door locked, working at the conference table. The staff was confused about whether to go to her or acting director Donna Becker or to County Administrator Korsah Akumfi.

Toward the end of January, the county requested and received, Dr. Gildemeister’s keys and uniform.

Supervisors: Not Related to COVID

Most supervisors were consistent in stating that the situation was not political or related directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board Chair and Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice said that the County Board made a decision made on her “whole body of work,” including administration and employee relations.

“It became political when the Schoharie County Democratic Committee decided to protect one of their own.”

Federice said that the topic of coronavirus enforcement never came up in discussions among Board members.

“Not once.”

The board chair said that the County is relying on the advice of legal counsel and “we believe our position is correct.”

The state is making other comments which are taking certain positions” that are contradictory to their legal advice. Federice said that this situation is similar to a recent legal case the county handled similarly and he believes was legally justified.

He added that if the information was based on Dr. Gildemeister’s “technical skill,” she would have remained in the position. However, he said that her conduct in administration an included “egregious” error that would have had her fired from a private enterprise.

Supervisor Harold Vroman of Summit said that the non-appointment was not related to the coronavirus. He said other press reporting on the issue has “not been true,” including information in letters to the editor.

Supervisor Vroman said that the situation revolving around the non-appointment was due to administration within the department and not COVID-related.

Supervisor Don Airey of Blenheim said that the situation since December said that he understands the public outcry regarding the non-appointment. He voted to re-appoint Dr. Gildemeister in December and not to re-open the case in January.

“I view that as actually a good thing,” he said. It would be “refreshing” if there was similar attention on other county matters, he said.

Supervisor Airey said that the issue became “more politically charged than it was.” He said that the accusation that the dismissal was due to a Republican plot to oust the director over COVID policy was not accurate, though he said that he could not speak on behalf of the other 15 supervisors.

“This was not for me not a political decision whatsoever,” he said. Airey added that it was the most difficult vote he’s taken at the county level in his three terms in office.

“In a lot of cases, we don’t have the luxury of describing what happens in executive session.” 

“The whole story cannot be told to the public,” Airey said.

The Supervisor said that reporting in the Times Journal and Times Union has been incomplete so far. He added that the statement from the Acting State Health Commissioner was “sent in haste and with some anger.”

“There were some statements that were not ready or should not have been released from a state commissioner’s office,” he said. Even the letter’s statement that it was transmitted via email prior to the print copy being sent from the state was incorrect, he said. It was not electronically sent until two weeks later, he said.

“It does illustrate how this topic,” he said, “kind of careened out of control and took on a political tone almost immediately,”

Airey added that this point of view was informed in his January statements about not re-opening the hearing regarding a possible re-appointment.

It was not a political topic, he said, “but it sure is now.”
Airey stated that media coverage caused a sharp public outcry, which he said was based on false information.

As a supervisor who voted in favor of re-appointment, Airey said that the framing of the situation was incorrect. He also rebutted claims that Dr. Gildemeister was not offered an opportunity to speak to the board.

As a member of the health committee, he said, there was ample opportunity for the director to speak.

“I wish she had,” he said. 

“That never happened. I find that kind of odd.”

Airey added that he had had discussions with supervisors since regarding the opportunity for Dr. Gildemeister to speak, but that framing from the public made this more difficult. Forcing her to speak after the director chose not to would have appeared to be an overstepping off the bounds of the board of supervisors.

He added that there was an opportunity not taken by Dr. Gildemeister. “I never understood why this didn’t happen,” he said, adding that he was not blaming the director.

“It was a personnel issue and thus, highly sensitive.”

The situation was particularly difficult to balance out the county’s concerns about “potential liability, personnel issues,” and management issues during Dr. Gildemeister’s tenure as director.

“I said in public that her qualifications were beyond reproach,” he said. Airey added that there were considerable administrative and personnel issues, as well.

“I had to balance all of those things,” he said, keeping in mind that “it might not be easy to find” a new director.

Even though he voted to re-appoint, he “understood” why the other supervisors voted the way they.

Airey discussed “displeasure” among board members regarding actions by Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe, including actions after the executive session, including “some compromise of executive session.”

Regarding the removal of Supervisor Skowfoe from his position as committee chair, the supervisor said that he waiting until the end of the first committee meeting to acknowledge Supervisor’s long tenure in his role.

“Whatever compromise might have occurred, I’m not sure that it happened it happened intentionally,” he said, though it may have affected Chair Supervisor Federice’s decision.

Airey continued that Dr. Gildemeister’s recently published statement that she was submitted to a “hostile work environment” was the first time he had heard such a topic that the director may have been mistreated.

“That was shocking to me,” he said.

If it was a hostile work environment, Airey said, Dr. Gildemeister had never mentioned it for years and never requested executive session during his six-year tenure on the board of supervisors.

Airey described it as “another oddity” in the ongoing discussion.

Supervisor Airey said that during his time on the public health committee, he was aware of one complaint, “possibly two” but could not continue due to executive session rules. Airey added that there are complaints at the county “all the time,” he said. He also added that the Oorah complaint mentioned below “was part” of his knowledge.

The Blenheim supervisor said that he understood the public concern about the dismissal and reiterated that “this was not a political issue when this came up.”
“I wish we could share everything about the situation,” he said. Airey said that Dr. Gildemeister’s current position and reputation “need to be protected.”

“I would rather err on the side of caution,” he said, “These are people’s lives.”

Cobleskill Supervisor Werner Hampel said that when “dealing with executive sessions, you’re hindered with what you can and cannot say.” He likened it to a fight “with one arm within your back.” He likened it to his time in the Navy dealing with classified nuclear information.

Since this is a personal situation “you’re dealing with people’s lives.”
The Supervisor said that he voted to retain the director.

“I don’t have anything bad to say about the other supervisors and how they voted.” Supervisor Hampel said that he read the same information that they did in making his decision.

“I respect their vote,” he said. Hampel said that he voted in the best interest of Cobleskill. 

“This stuff isn’t easy,” Hampel said. “It was a very tough decision. There is no doubt that it was tough for everyone.”

When asked about whether the vote was about COVID policy, he said that he couldn’t assess or question motives.

“The whole situation was unfortunate and the board voted the way they did with the information they had.” He added that he was “really happy” for Dr. Gildemeister in her new job, and described her as a hard worker and “bright.”

Several of the supervisors and employees cited Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe, who received considerable attention as the foremost defender of the health director on the county Board of Supervisors. He also received significant praise and scorn from both sides of the argument.

Supervisor Skowfoe said that the board of supervisors “made a mistake.” He said that no one from that board came to Skowfoe until December. Skowfoe said that he brought up the issue with the board of health.

“That was the first inkling that there was any problem,” he said. By the time he had a chance to talk to the board of health, the board of supervisors held their December meeting, he said.

According to Skowfoe, there was no ability to have Dr. Gildemeister involved in discussions or more discussions with the board of health. Skowfoe said prior to this being able to happen, Chair Federice held a special meeting the same night. Skowfoe said that he only had about five minutes to let Dr. Gildemeister know that the board of supervisors was concerned.

Skowfoe said that he said that he would vote accordingly to the board of health’s recommendation. Skowfoe said that he represented the board of supervisors, the board of health, and “the people of Skowfoe.”

When the board of health approved Gildemeister unanimously, Skowfoe voted the same way.

The Fulton Supervisor believed that there could have been remaining backlash against the Health Department’s COVID mandates, including from former Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister. Skowfoe also believes that Seward supervisor Earlin Rosa may have also been unhappy with her COVID retaliation.

When the vote regarding Supervisor Laraway’s non-vote in December came up, Skowfoe said that he believed that the Middleburgh supervisor would have voted to keep her. He also cited that should Richmondville Supervisor Jeff Haslun would have voted for her reappointment. Skowfoe cited Haslun’s vote in January in the second vote.

Skowfoe said that he believed that his vote regarding his removal from the committee assignment was retaliation. In particular, he cited Federice’s statement in a board of supervisors meeting that Skowfoe went against the “will of the board.”

“I thought we were all free and independent thinkers,” he said. “In my eyes, it’s retribution.”

He added that Sandra Manko’s removal from the Solid Waste Committee, “the most knowledgeable person” was removed for similar reasons.

Skowfoe strongly denied that there were any improper leaks from him to the press. In particular, he said that any correspondence put in writing between the supervisors is public record. He added, that he forwarded the information to another supervisor which was then sent to other recipients.

The Fulton supervisor said that originally he did not support Dr. Gildemeister at the beginning of her tenure, but became far stronger during her later role.

She said that the director has been “very communicative” and excelled especially during COVID. Furthermore, Skowfoe said that any potential employee issues. He said that he saw no concern about Dr. Gildemeister’s ability to run the office.

“If a supervisor isn’t doing [her] job,” he said. And no matter what the skill of the administrator, there will always be disagreements.

“When a person has the education that Dr. Amy has,” Skowfoe said, there could be concerns about disagreements with the board of supervisors. “Not that they’re better than we are,” he said, “but they talk differently than common people.” In some cases, this could lead to unintentional misunderstandings.”

“I think that’s what happened here.”

Skowfoe added that he’s received considerable support from the public for his actions.

“I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” he said.

He said that the current situation at the county board is likely the worst that he’s seen during his 25-year tenure.

One employee noted that Dr. Gildemeister hired, then promoted Skowfoe’s daughter Kathy Buskey to a part-time, then full-time early intervention position. Another employee stated that he was a critical supervisor of Dr. Gildemeister’s early tenure during Board of Health meetings. 

Section 5 of the Schoharie County Code of Ethics reads in part that municipal officers should recuse themselves when “a direct or indirect financial or material benefit to himself or herself, a relative” and cannot “participate in any decision or take any official action with respect to any matter requiring the exercise of discretion, including discussing the matter and voting on it, when he or she knows or has reason to know that the action could confer a direct or indirect financial or material benefit on himself or herself, a relative, or any private organization in which he or she is deemed to have an interest.”

Regarding his daughter working for the Health Department, he said it was a “valid point.”
“I never even thought about it that way,” said Skowfoe.

“In hindsight, I think I should have excused myself,” he said. Had he been asked about it by the other supervisors, Skowfoe said that he would have. He added that he plans to address a possible recusal at an upcoming meeting.

“Hindsight is better than foresight,” he said.

COVID Settlement

The COVID chapter is not a major factor in the ongoing controversy said members of the board of supervisors and multiple employees. There is one case of publicly-documented controversy from the era, a settlement involving TheZone Jewish summer camp.

During the pandemic, the Schoharie County Health Department attempted to close operations at the Oorah non-profit summer camp in Jefferson and Stamford. Oorah initiated federal litigation claiming that Schoharie County "unfairly shut down Oorah's operation," citing "decades-long selective enforcement." As part of the settlement, the county agreed to rescind all fines imposed on Oorah in 2020 and 2021. The County paid a $90,000 settlement to the organization.

Furthermore, three individuals stated that Dr. Gildemeister used her personal social media accounts to check on COVID compliance among the general public. The use of personal social media accounts for county business is expressly prohibited by the Schoharie County Code of Ethics. Another stated that Dr. Gildemeister searched at least one private medical record of an employee.

Da-lai Wu of Schoharie’s New Slate Fitness said that he felt that Dr. Gildemeister was unfair to his health club during the pandemic. In March 2020, Wu said that when informed that his business would be closed, he asked the Health Department to place the ‘closed’ placard out front.

The health director told Wu that the placard would be there this week but “never showed for the whole pandemic.”

Wu said that there were difficult and changing standards to open during the pandemic and requested help from local elected officials to re-open to which he received “nasty emails.”

Wu said that he had to receive assistance from then-state Senator Jim Seward and Assemblyman Chris Tague to schedule an inspection after it was delayed by the county health department. 

According to Wu, the inspector that came out “distanced herself from everything that was going on in [the health department]” and described the situation with the health director was part of a “vendetta.”

Wu provided an email from March 17, 2020, regarding this. He shared an email from October 2020 in which he wrote that other local gyms were able to re-open prior without inspections and that the health department delayed inspections. He wrote in October 2020 "Amy Gildemeister has been messing with the club since March 17th” and separately wrote that contacting local officials, including Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner, upset the director. Tavenner later voted to dismiss her last December.

The strain of the pandemic could explain major elements of statements from the general public and employees. The changing guidance from the state would often leave the director on conference calls in the office with the door closed, hearing the day’s updates from the state. In so doing, she would leave much of the administration to several of the employees, which was perceived as preferential treatment.

Dr. Gildemeister served alongside several other major county officials on the COVID Task Force, alongside former County Treasurer Bill Cherry, Sheriff Ron Stevens, County Administrator Steve Wilson, and Office Of Emergency Services director Mike Hartzel.

Due to all of the attention, Dr. Gildemeister drew to her COVID response following the Dec. 20th board of supervisors vote, we looked into several high-profile cases of COVID penalties. Enforcement at several high-end enforcement efforts included the Daughters of the American Revolution, New Slate Fitness, and others.

Review of Public Health minutes and reporting from 2020 paint a very different picture than Dr. Gildemeister’s public statements. While comments following the vote of dismissal imply that supervisors were angered by successful enforcement, evidence is closer to the opposite. The high-profile fines levied by the health department were mostly dropped without major enforcement.

Supervisors were consistent and employees split on the idea that the COVID pandemic impacted their impressions of Dr. Gildemeister’s work. One incident relayed was a specific series of incidents between Dr. Gildemeister and an auditor Bonnie Peca. According to an employee, there was a disagreement over Ms. Peca's vaccination status, as well as with two former nurses. Originally, Ms. Peca was not allowed into the office because she was not vaccinated. When Ms. Peca began working in a conference room across the hall, the director barred her from the building, which the employee stated was because Dr. Gildemeister refused to be contradicted by anyone, including an auditor.

Staffing Shortages

Employees and Dr. Gildemeister painted a picture of a challenged department. One cited a severe decline in the functions of the department as it lost personnel.

The health department over time lost its ability to fully engage in food service permits, temporary residences, septic permits, no flu vaccine clinics held, and fines and violations either not handed out or not fully enforced. Both those in favor and against the tenure of Dr. Gildemeister described significant staffing issues.

In particular, some employees stated that their skills and needs were mismatched. While there were not enough employees in nursing or emergency preparedness, the environmental unit had five employees replacing the three that previously did the work. Even with five people on staff, much of the work would fall through and be instead delegated to the Board of Health. One employee described the situation as gossipy. Others described it as a “tight ship.”

Personnel and Policy

Members of the Board of Health and supervisors who served on the Public Health Committee defended Dr. Gildemeister, describing her as skilled on policy issues.

Board of Health member and longtime local physician Dr. Roy Korn said that the Board of Supervisors' action was “a travesty.”

Dr. Korn said that the Supervisors discussed several concerns about Dr. Gildemeister’s leadership in the executive session and that members of the Board of Health were not aware of any complaints against the director until November 2022.

Dr. Korn stated that the board of health, as the agency that technically employs Dr. Gildemeister is intended to speak from a position of medical expertise.

The current hybrid system where Dr. Gildemeister is partially administered by the board of health, the board of supervisors, and the county administrator is “not a sustainable position.”

He said that the members of the board of health believed that Dr. Gildemeister was doing an “excellent job” from a policy perspective.

Regarding potential personnel issues, Dr. Korn said that he was not sure of any formal grievances against Dr. Gildemeister. He did reference a previous county-level investigation into Dr. Gildemeister. Dr. Korn said that the director could not get a copy of the report and that she said that such an investigation was “biased.”

He also cited a glowing personnel review regarding Dr. Gildemeister from former County Administrator Steve Wilson.

If there were significant personnel issues, then it could affect future board of health decisions, but Dr. Korn also stated that so far there were no significant indications to its members of such concerns.

“If this is such an issue, wouldn’t it follow county procedures?” asked Dr. Korn.

Furthermore, Dr. Korn said that he and the other members of the board of health feel fully informed by the representative from the board of supervisors, Phil Skowfoe.

County Attorney Michael West said that there is a complex answer to the question of reappointment.

“She’s got a great reputation,” he said. “No one has questioned her credentials.”

West said that Dr. Gildemeister had to tackle a number of crises, including those regarding COVID.

There is more information than could be publicly released, the attorney said.

Former Assistant to the Schoharie County Administrator and current Schuyler County Administrator Fonda Chronis said that the county is “at a disadvantage,” and that there are certain issues that happened behind closed doors that could change perspectives.

Otsego County Administrator and former Schoharie County Administrator Steve Wilson said “all of this action happened after I left [in July 2022], so I do not know what the board of supervisors was thinking at the time.”

“However, I believe the board would have conducted a performance review focused mostly on the management and administration required of any department head. I believe the board understands the roles and responsibilities of the board of health and for itself.”

The picture painted by county officials and employees split depending on their perceived role regarding the health department. County Supervisors and other leadership positions describe Dr. Gildemeister’s attitude as polite and non-confrontational. This assessment was shared by several of those who voted to not renew her appointment. 

Improper Actions by Board of Supervisors, Says Director
We spoke for Dr. Gildemeister for an hour last week, providing a chance for a more complete view from her perspective. The outgoing director said that the board of supervisors made a series of serious errors.

For the health director, the December board decision was political. She cites the county board’s previous actions, including one supervisor’s statement that “COVID is no worse than the flu,” about masking requirements, and one supervisor not wearing a mask “in a clinical situation” during the statewide mandate.

COVID policy has been politicized nationwide, said Dr. Gildemeister. This could have impacted the county board’s decision, she said.

During the pandemic, there was a risk of hospitals being overrun and many vulnerable people in Schoharie County, she said. These risks justified such “extreme measures.”

Dr. Gildemeister said that “COVID policy plays into it.” She said that multiple supervisors made statements about pandemic policy but have backed out because it would be easier to blame something else.

The director stated that one of the members of the board of supervisors “put an enormous amount of pressure” on the health department during the pandemic to instead focus mainly on other issues.

Dr. Gildemeister said that current employees may fear retribution from the board of supervisors, and as such, are less likely to talk. Current employees in the department, she said, have defended her “as a group.”

If any came to the newspaper to talk, she said, there could be an “effect on their employment situation.”
“By its very nature, it’s going to be very difficult to get a balanced viewpoint on what’s happening in the department right now.”

The employees have “very very low trust in anyone keeping confidence,” she said. She cited a rumor that Bill Federice owns part of this newspaper, which is not true.

The trust between the board of supervisors and the board of health is “low,” said the doctor because the supervisors chose “not to take direction from the board of health but the state health commissioner.”

She said that Schoharie County can promise to change, but that this would only last “as long as it’s convenient.”

The January vote that resulted in the same result as December’s was no surprise to Dr. Gildemeister.

Dr. Gildemeister cited the case of Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe losing his committee appointment. She said that she heard that there were rumors that other supervisors were being pressured to vote one way.

The director cited Skowfoe’s several decades of experience on the public health committee. She called in a “happily invested and tireless member” of these committees.

It “presumes that members of the board of health don’t come to their own judgments,” she said. Since the board of health is made up of professionals, she said, “these are people who are highly trained.”

“The idea that they’re not able to make their own decisions and make up their own minds— it’s offensive, really,” she said.

It was “very unfair” that Skowfoe was taken off of public health oversight.

The fault, said the director, was the leadership of the board of supervisors.

“They created an echo chamber” where supervisors “only spoke to each other about these things.”

The doctor said that she has not been involved with, nor invited to, any of the meetings by the board of supervisors regarding these decisions and is unaware of any charges against her.

Last week, the director took a new position with the state Department of Health.
Dr. Gildemeister said that there were several projects she had hoped to complete prior to leaving the county, including an update to the sanitary code. These changes could be hard for a new individual starting in the position.

“It’s a very complicated program,” she said.

Some of these programs were interrupted by the pandemic.

The health director stated that there was some chaos due to the pandemic, she said. This included “continually, continually changing guidelines.” The doctor said that there was nearly complete turnover during the pandemic. In some cases, she said, new hiring was limited by the board of supervisors.

“No one wants to work in a health department during a global pandemic.”

She added that for more than a year, Dr. Gildemeister said, she’s taken on other roles, including Public Health Preparedness. This is in addition to clinic management, some vaccine and infectious disease management, and administration.

“We’ve been completely understaffed for years,” she said.

Dr. Gildemeister said that there has been no deputy environmental director or environmental director, she said. Other counties have both, she said. 

“The department had been downsized to the point” that Dr. Gildemeister had to prioritize needs, including special needs preschool and early intervention. There had been one person and now there are three.

There has been an increase from three to four public health sanitarians.

The department had been downsized to the point that “we couldn’t function.” She believes that the cuts were “intentional” and did not actually save the county money. She argued that the department was approximately $100,000 short of necessary funding.

Dr. Gildemeister stated that there were one or two grievances filed during her tenure but could not remember which. One of them, she said, was not about interaction with employees. It was instead regarding disagreements over county protocol, she said. The director said that the grievance was the result of following the advice of a member of the personnel department. Dr. Gildemeister told the Times Union in a January 6th interview that she was not aware of "any write-ups or investigations during her tenure."

She added that there are no grievances in her personnel file. Dr. Gildemeister said that reviews by the county cited her positively. The director declined to release those records, citing the need for legal counsel review. She said that there is not anything negative within them.

As far as politics is concerned, the director was adamant that she stayed out it. Dr. Gildemeister sees herself as an independent politically. She’s been a registered Republican and Democrat during her adult life and entered into her position as a member of the latter. The Schoharie County Democratic Committee has been vocal in their support of the director.

Public health, in general, she said, includes harm reduction priorities and goals of caring for children, which she describes as “human kindness” and not partisan, though some interpret these issues as entitlement programs more favored by Democrats.

She said that she has had “zero contact with the Democratic committee.”

“I didn’t ask them to do it and I was not a party to it,” she said. Dr. Gildemeister said that accusations of political infighting were “ridiculous.”

Dr. Gildemeister said that her relationship with former county administrator Steve Wilson has been complex. At first, she said, she “tried hard to work with him and be supportive of him.” 

During the pandemic, the director said, she worked well with Wilson.

Since she became “frustrated” by Wilson. She said that Wilson did not understand the “excessive workload” within the department.

“Seven days a week.”
Dr. Gildemeister said that this situation had employees “literally in tears” due to the increased workload.

She asked rhetorically why Wilson made a “lateral move” from Schoharie to Otsego County as administrator.

In terms of favoritism, Dr. Gildemeister said that there were no cases of any benefits or pay due to personal bias during her tenure.

“In any workplace, when you spend a lot of time with people, there are some people that” may like others “on a personal basis more than another person.” She said that every day, she made a point of speaking to every single person in the department and gave them an opportunity to voice concerns or discuss workload.

“My job as a manager is not to be universally well-liked,” she said.

“It’s to hold them accountable, and sometimes that makes them unhappy.”

She said that there may be reasons for former employees to complain, but that there is “likely a whole” lot more to the story that she could not disclose at this time.

“They can talk about me and the situation, but I cannot talk about them.”

Some employees had “very significant” performance issues. In addition, there were other employees that disagreed over COVID employment, including two that left due to vaccination requirements, she said. Dr. Gildemeister said that her efforts have been to treat others fairly.

The following day, Dr. Gildemeister called the newspaper and asked why we would write an article about “administration” since other local newspapers have focused mainly on the vote of the board of supervisors. The response was that the lack of coverage means that it should be done and that the title ‘director’ is directly related to administration.

Dr. Gildemeister said that her self-interpretation of her work performance is that the county has an excellent team. 

“We do difficult but really important work. That results in people being unhappy because of what we’re trying to do.”

Remember to Subscribe!
Subscription Options
Share this article :
Like the Post? Do share with your Friends.


Post a Comment