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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts

Broome Audit Reveals $16,000 in Improper Spending

Written By Editor on 12/29/14 | 12/29/14

The small Schoharie County municipality of Broome has been chided by the Office of the New York State Comptroller for failing to effectively manage and oversee the town's financial assets over a fourteen month period beginning in January 2013 and ending this past March.

In an official audit released on Friday, December 19th, the Comptroller's Office Division of Local Government and School Accountability criticized the town board's past failure to ensure taxpayer dollars were being appropriately expended and accounted for. 

According to the report, which is available for public consumption here, missteps in oversight had occurred in the management of the Court, of the Highway Department, and in the administration of storm-related reimbursements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

However, the largest blow was not dealt to the previous town board but to former Town Highway Superintendent Michael Parker, who after he was defeated in his November, 2013 bid for re-election, engaged in a one man shopping spree against the board's wishes:
...the outgoing Highway Superintendent was able to make two purchases for loader tires (four separate invoices) over $16,000 without the required authorization forms being approved. These purchases were in opposition to the Board’s intent because the Board was considering purchasing a new loader. These purchases were made after the Highway Superintendent lost his bid for re-election, but before the end of his term in December 2013. Although the current Board initially would not approve these invoices for payment and attempted to return the tires to the vendor, the tires had already been partially used and, therefore, were not returnable. The current Board eventually paid the invoices. 
Furthermore, in his continued display of mismanagement, Parker failed to maintain records of invoices or Town man and machine hours related to flood repairs for federal reimbursement. As such, the municipality may not obtain the full $235,900 it was eligible for.

Broome Supervisor William Smith, who had not been in office during most of the audit's time frame, commented in response to the report that "We agree with the findings within the audit and corrective measures have been taken and procurement policies have been followed since Jan 1 2014."

Smith defeated former Supervisor Anne Batz in November, 2013. 

Ethington Found Guilty by County Board

Written By Editor on 9/22/14 | 9/22/14

A pared down panel of members of the County Board of Supervisors have found Cassandra Ethington guilty of misconduct. The eight panel ad-hoc jury voted tonight to remove the former Personnel Director from her position.

The vote was a unanimous 8-0. All of the Supervisors on the panel voted to let her go. The trial has been going on for several months. The Supervisors on the jury were Buzon (Middleburgh), Bleau (Wright), McAllister (Cobleskill), Federice (Conesville), Smith (Blenheim), Smith (Broome), VanGlad (Gilboa), and VanWormer (Esperance).

The deliberation took for an hour. Former Schoharie News editor Tim Knight said, "Tonight's verdict was the culmination of many months of investigation into misconduct in County government and tonight justice was done."

Ethington had been suspended from her position since last year.

Ethington Decision Expected September 22nd

Written By Editor on 9/9/14 | 9/9/14

Two weeks from today, the Ethington saga may be over. According to the County Board of Supervisors, the next hearing date of September 22nd should be the last. The hearing is taking place at the County Courthouse at 6pm and is open to the public.

The decision will be made by the remaining 8 Supervisors on the ad hoc jury in an unweighted vote. Five votes or more are needed to convict, or find not guilty. A tie would result in a mistrial. The Supervisors making the decision are Buzon (Middleburgh), Bleau (Wright), McAllister (Cobleskill), Federice (Conesville), Smith (Blenheim), Smith (Broome), VanGlad (Gilboa), and VanWormer (Esperance). There is no indication yet on how the Supervisor will vote. There has been extensive questioning by the special prosecutor and the defense attorney.

If Ethington is found not guilty, she will serve out her remaining contract, which will not expire for three years. It is unclear if she would physically return to the office or serve at home.

Hanson Lawsuit Dismissed

Written By Editor on 9/5/14 | 9/5/14

A lawsuit launched by former Schoharie County Department of Public Works employee William Hanson was dismissed late last month. The judgement by Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly on August 21st backed the narrative of the County.

Hanson was suing over what he described as an intentional purge to remove him from his position and demanded restitution.

According to Judge Connolly, since Mr. Hanson was hired on a probation basis, he had less leverage in his case than a full civil service employee. The Judge declared that in this limited review of the termination as allowed by law, there was no legal standing to the suit. Connolly said that Hanson's own suit did "not allege that his dismissal was made for an improper or impermissible reason."

The Judge continued that probationary employees could be fired for "no reason at all" in court precedent. The dismissal also notes that Hanson's original brief admitted that he was a probationary employee, and in a second document contradicted his first story, stating that he was not probationary during his time with the County.

The judgement ended with acceding to the request of Schoharie County to dismiss the case and that Hanson's claims would be "dismissed and the relief in this proceeding is in all respects denied."

Ethington Hearing Set for Early July

Written By Editor on 6/24/14 | 6/24/14

Following the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors vote to take disciplinary action on suspended Personnel Officer Cassandra Ethington at the May county board meeting, a series of three days has been set aside for legislators to consider the future of the department head.

Kicking off on July 8th and lasting through the 10th, Supervisors will meet over three evenings at 5:00 p.m. each night to hear the case against and in defense of Mrs. Ethington in what outside observers are calling a "trial by committee." 

Mrs. Ethington has been suspended with pay by the county board since the second part of the controversial Fitzmaurice Report was released in early November. The investigative report allegedly uncovered widespread misconduct and employee intimidation originating from Ethington's office.

No Supervisors offered comment on the upcoming hearing, stating that they were barred from offering official statements at this time, due to the nature of serving in a position where they will have a final say on what, if any, actions will be taken against the Personnel Officer.

Hanson Suing County, Crandell after "Report" Firing

Written By Editor on 5/27/14 | 5/27/14

Former Schoharie County Department of Public Works employee William Hanson is suing Schoharie County and DPW Commissioner Dan Crandell in regards to his recent dismissal. The case, filed on April 21, 2014 requests for "annulling and vacating" the decision of Crandell to remove Hanson from his position on December 21, 2013. Hanson is representing himself according to the brief.

According to Hanson's assertions, his position was covered by civil service protection. However, the local branch of the CSEA union refused to take up Hanson's cause. According to Hanson, he was an "above average" employee, but was released from his position after an unsatisfactory report from Crandell in late 2013. Hanson also asserts that the County Board of Supervisors refused to address the issue. Hanson calls the firing an act "in bad faith." Later on he states that he performed "exemplary service" at the County. In a deposition notarized by former Middleburgh Mayor Gary Hayes, Hanson states: "I cannot believe that in this day and age a boss in a municipality can just walk in one morning and fire you and tell you to pack your stuff and leave. I believe that I was treated unfairly and without regard to Civil Service rules..."

According to a major portion of the Fitzmaurice Report of 2013, it was alleged that Mr. Hanson, who is the Chairman of the Schoharie County Conservative Party, was hired as a direct result of former Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington's suggestion.

Hayes personally served both County Attorney Michael West and Mr. Crandell. West was served at his house at 6:22 am on April 22nd, according to the deposition. The case is now in Schoharie County Court for consideration.

AECOM Bombshell: Forged Contract Could Cost County Millions, Imperil Stream Remediation

Written By Editor on 3/18/14 | 3/18/14

For fifteen months the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has been operating under the impression that the county's $23 million stream bank remediation project being administered by the engineering firm AECOM was on track, both financially and construction wise, based on regular monthly briefings provided by the company's on-project representative Patty Flores.

Until last week, that was.

County officials learned in a closed door meeting that not only has AECOM requested anywhere from $1.2-$3 million in additional payments on top of the county board's already-approved $3.2 million agreement with the global design and construction firm, or else they will walk off the project, but that the official contract they came to terms with and signed in early 2013 no way reflects the board's original motion.

The revised version, which was never filed with the county board and may not have been approved by the county attorney, was altered without legal authorization to base the contractual agreement on works performed rather than a fixed percentage of costs. Changes were allegedly made by co-project manager and county Director of Planning and Development Alicia Terry and then initialed by former Board Chairman Harold Vroman.

AECOM's bombshell admission, which paints an unfavorable picture of two county leaders working outside the parameters of the board's approved decision of December 11th, 2012, moved by Gilboa Supervisor Tony VanGlad, has sent local officials scrambling to fill the money gap left by the unauthorized contract. The original $23 million price tag was carefully structured to ensure the county would be reimbursed for all costs by federal and state offsets on a 75/25% basis, a framework that is now imperil.

In addition, Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry told the Schoharie News that the county could face even more financial heartache if the stream bank project's bondholder reneges and demands full payment. Cherry explained that because the original bond was constructed under false pretenses, the county could be saddled with millions in debt, which would then probably be pushed on property owners byway of significant tax increases.

With the project's construction phase set to begin within the next few weeks, supervisors will have their hands full at the upcoming county board meeting on Friday as they will have to decide both how to respond to the allegedly questionable actions of Ms. Terry and Supervisor Vroman that led to this growing scandal, and how to ensure its completion without adding potentially millions in debt. 

Poll: Wait and See on Reinstating Fired Employees

Written By Editor on 11/24/13 | 11/24/13

The general sentiment around the County has been to review many of the circumstances surrounding the tenure of former Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington. This remains the case in the most recent Schoharie News poll. Many support immediate reinstatement of the former employees fired by Ethington, but a plurality support more investigation before the decision is made.

Should the Employees Fired During Ethington's Tenure Be Reinstated?

Yes, all- 37: 27%
Yes, if mentioned in the Fitzmaurice Report- 21: 15%
No- 25: 18%
Too early to tell- 56: 40%
Total: 138

The next several weeks will see the departure of the current Board of Supervisors and the seating of the new ones. What the new Board will do is still uncertain, but there will be a further inquiry as the situation unravels.

Conservative Party Did Not File Campaign Finances, Appears to Violate State Law

Written By Editor on 11/20/13 | 11/20/13

The Conservative Party of Schoharie County has played a major role in local politics over the last decade under the tenure of current Chair William Hanson. From 2007 to the present it has staked out an independent tack, endorsing multiple candidates across the County for races from Supervisor to Sheriff to County Clerk.

However, as the third largest party in the County it is required to disclose financial transactions so long as they are above $1,000 total. Since 2007, there has not been a single filing.

There is every reason to believe that the Conservative Party has been involved financially in multiple races across the County. Direct evidence came this year in a mailer attacking County Treasurer Bill Cherry and Supervisors Carl Barbic, Gene Milone, and Phil Skowfoe. On the bottom of the mailer, it stated that it was paid for by the Conservative Party. Considering that 4,000 placards were printed and mailed-- it is inconceivable that the total cost was under $1,000.

When researched, there is no filing for the party at all. Not even a basic statement or a quarterly election summary. Not a mention of the mailer or its cost, as required by law.

State law is clear on the issue. On the NYS Board of Elections website there is no room for error.
Committees are required to file either an itemized campaign financial disclosure report, an In-Lieu-Of Statement (if qualified), or a No-Activity Report, as described, for each filing period: 
Itemized Campaign Financial Disclosure Report 
An itemized campaign financial disclosure report is a report disclosing the financial activity for a specific reporting period, detailed on applicable schedule(s), and where at the close of the reporting period, the aggregate of receipts or expenditures of the campaign have exceeded $1,000.
If there is no political activity or fundraising of over $1,000 the committee can report this instead and there would be no money figure attached. Still, with the creation and distribution of the infamous mailer, this does not seem plausible. Since this is the case, how could election law not be followed by a large party in Schoharie County?

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.

County Board to Meet on Reinstating Fired Employees

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

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors will be meeting to discuss the overall budget proposed by Budget Officer Bill Cherry and will have an extra item on the agenda. Extended discussion was held on Friday revolving around several employees fired during the tenure of suspended Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington.

Multiple Supervisors spoke about what to do about employees that were let go in late 2011 such as Eva Gigandet and Penny Grimes. Mrs. Grimes spoke to the Board and discussed how she worked her way into her position and "earned" her paycheck. Esperance Supervisor Earl vanWormer echoed similar sentiments, calling for reinstatement.

Seward Supervisor Carl Barbic supported a similar tack, but under further consideration. He requested a further look into the budget before making such a decision. After this, Treasurer Bill Cherry said that he would again look into the budget to allow restitution and that he would support such a re-hiring.

Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone asked for a special meeting to discuss such a re-hire, saying that it was not fair to leave the former employees waiting to know what would happen. He said that the Board should "come to conclusion" on the issue. He called it a "no-brainer" and said that the employees were "wrongfully dismissed."

Cobleskill Supervisor Tom Murray disagreed, stating that the State Supreme Court said that the employees were not wrongfully dismissed.

A majority on the Board did not agree with a consensus call to hold a special meeting at this time.

Penny Grimes Speaking to the Board. Photo Credit SCHOPEG
Former employee Penny Grimes spoke again, asking Mr. Murray what he meant. Murray stated that he did not believe that the Fitzmaurce Report "holds a lot of merit." Grimes stated that the voters supported what the Board did regarding the Report. She said that she was "sick and tired" of other people implying that the Report was a "pack of lies" while looking in Murray's direction. She said that she would not want to sue again, but could in the future.

Watch part of the exchange below. Video credit from SCHOPEG.

Instead of a special meeting, Phil Skowfoe instead asked for the consideration of these issues on December 10th during a regular budget meeting.

Last Portion of Report Documentation Withheld, Could be Used for Legal Action

Written By Editor on 11/14/13 | 11/14/13

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has one part of the Fitzmaurice Report still under wraps. The official documentation for the second portion of the Report has still not been released. There is general consensus of Board members that the information should be made public in time, but there is a wait for the release.

District Attorney Jim Sacket spoke to the County Board on November 1st, waiting on further information before coming public on recommendation for legal action. Hundreds of pages of County records, emails, and other documents are included in the portfolio.

The documents have been partially summarized in the second part of the Fitzmaurice Report and are partially culled from public record. However, the information taken from County emails remain private and include names of employees that were redacted in both issues of the Report. Sources indicate that the documentation includes more content revolving around how Supervisors or former Supervisors such as Martin Shrederis and Tom Murray were involved with giving more power to Cassandra Ethington. According to the first part of the Report, Murray was also involved with Ethington and Conservative Party Bill Hanson.

This documentation could be used after the public hearing on Cassandra Ethington's employment with the County. Whether or not legal action will be filed is unclear, but circumstances are different than the first portion of the Report's documentation. The first set of documentation was released, but did not include as much sensitive information.

Legal Protection's End May Bring Suits Against Ethington

Cassandra Ethington's issues with residents of Schoharie County will not end at the dismissal hearing early next month. The event, tenatively dated for early December may very well see the currently-suspended Personnel Chief fired from her position with the County. While this would be a dramatic event, other issues will likely take its place.

First is the end of a legal shield for Ethington. As of today, any lawsuits filed against Ethington for her role as Personnel Director will be met by the County. In the past, as with lawsuits filed by Penny Grimes, Ethington was defended by attorneys paid for by the County. Once she is let go, the legal protection ends and the costs come straight from her pocket.

Beyond this, the risk of lawuits appear very high. Previously dismissed lawsuits for employees such as Grimes, Eva Gigandet, and Sean Jordan could be re-litigated. In addition, employees that were let go during her tenure with the Personnel or Health Department may now sue, understanding that the County is no longer behind her.

While the County itself may be sued by current and former employees, the chance of personal lawsuits has risen with the release of both portions of the Fitzmaurice Report. These could begin by the end of the year.

Ethington Came Perilously Close to Gaining Control of Majority of Important County Departments

Written By Editor on 11/6/13 | 11/6/13

While the Todd Ethington campaign ended in ignominity last night it only shows part of the unfolding story. As documents, emails, and interviews showed, Cassandra Ethington effectively wielded a great amount of control in County civil service.

However, as more information is coming to light, her role keeping tabs on employees, creating alliances with powerful office holders and department heads, and using fear to keep people from speaking out became devastatingly effective until the Fitzmaurice Report hit the headlines.

Personnel Department

Cassandra Ethington was hired by the County Board after being fired from her previous job for allegedly purchasing concert tickets on the company credit card. Having only an associate's degree from Cobleskill in culinary arts, Ethington allegedly re-wrote the civil service posting for her job as Personnel Director to place herself in the position. (Clarifying edit: The above information comes from various sources involved in the County government.)

Health Department

Cassandra Ethington received help from members of the Board of Supervisors to hand over the County Home Health services to a private company. Assisted by Supervisors such as Martin Shrederis and Bill Goblet, she led the transfer of the services-- which then led directly to her appointment as interim Health Department Director as assisted by Dan Singletary.

Ethington's tenure saw a purge of employees that she deemed a threat. Setting an example, she undermined former Health Director Kathleen Strack and positioned herself to replace her. She fired multiple employees, some under allegedly illegal circumstances and subverted the administration of Asante Shipp-Hilts, who was supposed to serve as de facto  Health Director.

CSEA Union

Cassandra Ethington's role in the local branch of the CSEA union is unclear, but it has become obvious that she held an important kingmaking role with the union. Her role as Personnel Director blocked any employees from appealing straight to the County. Meanwhile, her influence with the union caused employees to feel that she would know about complaints and punish offenders. In fact, her role exposing confidential information allowed her to know intimate details that she could use against employees.

Sheriff's Department

Todd Ethington's victory yesterday would have effectively handed control of law enforcement in Schoharie County to his wife Cassandra. However, even before the race the Ethingtons jockeyed for more control in the Department. Both Todd and Cassandra were vital campaigners for Tony Desmond in 2009-- and reports are circulating that Todd expected a gift (possibly a promotion) for his role putting Desmond over the top.

The Ethingtons soured on Desmond and Cassandra attempted to wrest control from the Sheriff. Her layoff list would have targeted rivals of Todd and decimated the Department-- against the wishes of Desmond. She said that she wanted some of the layoffs to she how 'she could run the jail.'

Board of Elections

Cassandra Ethington attempted to reshape both the staff and the Board of Elections, attempting to take control from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. This effort was rebuffed.

Conservative Party

Todd Ethington was named the Conservative Party's candidate earlier this year. Conservative Party Chair Bill Hanson had been hired by Cassandra-- who manipulated the civil service requirements to force his hiring. The Conservative Party was key in supporting many of Cassandra's allies on the Board of Supervisors, including Martin Shrederis, Dan Singletary, and Tom Murray.

Planning Department

Close Ethington ally Alicia Terry runs the Planning and Tourism Department. Ms. Terry was allegedly involved in Ethington's abuse of civil service law and fired at least one employee under suspicious circumstances.

Budget Office

When County Treasurer Bill Cherry temporarily gave up his role as Budget Officer, Alicia Terry stepped in as one of two new Budget Officers to take his place. Ms. Terry's tenure as Budget Officer allowed Cassandra the latitude to create the parallel 'hit list' of layoffs that devastated the County in late 2011.

Board of Supervisors

For a brief period under the Chairmanship of Ethington ally Harold Vroman, the Conservative Party faction controlled the Board of Supervisors. During this tumultuous period, Ethington accelerated her attempt to take over many Departments, using the flood as a way to manipulate Board members. By 2011, Ethington had control over many important facets of County government and having power that rivaled both the Chair of the Board and County Treasurer. Her control over these differing Departments acted as a trap that would prevent serious inquiries into her activity.

This was changed after the 2011 elections. New Supervisors such as Gene Milone of Schoharie forced the issue. Complaints about Ethington reached an apex in the aftermath of the flood and Mr. Milone took the politically risky step of starting the process that would lead to the Fitzmaurice Report.

For Cassandra Ethington, her effort to control County government and civil service came perilously close to victory. Before the release of the Fitzmaurice Report, her role in the mess in Schoharie was regarded by some as 'hearsay' and a 'witch hunt.' Her control over multiple Departments allowed much of the criticism to be stifled.

It is safe to say that if the Fitzmaurice Report was delayed even further, Todd Ethington and his allies would have done substantially better at the polls. Instead, the succession of the Report and the corruption emerging from the Conservative Party led Mr. and Mrs.'s Ethington's final tally of 15.6% yesterday.

Questions Still Unanswered by the Report

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

The Fitzmaurice Report certainly has cleared the air around the Schoharie County Civil Service. It has also brought to light many alleged transgressions headed by a group around Cassandra Ethington.

Still, as bad as Ethington's actions were she was not the only one involved. She was aided by Supervisors such as Tom Murray, Martin Shrederis, Harold Vroman, and Dan Singletary, but she was still just one person in the larger food chain and these Supervisors alone could not seize the entire County government or civil service without a wider net.

How could this happen? How did this happen?

What appears to be unsaid throughout all this is how the mechanisms that placed Cassandra Ethington in charge of so much were created. Now we know how she engineered her takeover of the CHHA transfer and the Health Department, but not other vital questions.

How did Todd Ethington receive the Conservative Party nomination for Sheriff? How could he receive the nomination even when challenged by incumbent Tony Desmond without a caucus or primary?

How did the Conservative Party find the money to bankroll major races across the County? The Party is the third largest but is still paltry in size and scope compared to the Republicans and Democrats. The Conservative Party has bankrolled two County Clerk races, two Sheriff's races, and multiple Supervisor races across the County since 2007. Yes, some of the campaign was paid for by the candidates themselves, but we are talking about thousands and thousands of unaccounted-for dollars.

How did Cassandra Ethington's "reign of terror" stay out of the eyes of the Supervisors for so long? Was there an intentional cover up or did the complaints never reach the top?

How could Cassandra Ethington hire multiple allies-- including Conservative Party Chair Bill Hanson-- and her own mother without a review from the Board of Supervisors?

Who set up and paid for the crooked campaigning in the Town of Jefferson? If Singletary did not-- then who did?

There are even more questions than this and the Schoharie News will do its best to get to the bottom of each one. However, it appears that the Report created more questions than answered them. It appears that the corruption in County government had more strings than from Cassandra Ethington.

Shrederis Colluded to Hand CHHA, Health Dept to Ethington

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.

Sources: Ethington Received Unredacted Report from Singletary, Has Access to Confidential Interviews

Written By Editor on 11/3/13 | 11/3/13

Cassandra Ethington may have been suspended on Friday, but she may now have access to the names and interviews of those that testified against her in the Fitzmaurice Report. According to multiple sources, Supervisor Dan Singletary was handing out multiple copies of the unredacted first portion of the Report-- and in all likelihood at least one copy went to the Personnel Director.

Many of those interviewed were hesitant (or did not take part) because of fear of retaliation. Some spoke strictly on the basis of anonymity. Only the attorneys from Fitzmaurice, Schoharie County attorneys, and the Board of Supervisors were to have access to the confidential information, which included names and specific complaints. The fear that these employees would face firing, demotion, or lawsuits from those accused in the Report was palpable.

If Cassandra Ethington received a copy of the first portion of the Report, she now knows who said what and when to the investigators. With her now infamous claim that she would sue any person that testified the idea that she has the list of those that started the process that will likely end in her dismissal is a disturbing prospect.

Opinion: Murray's Final Disgrace

Editor's Note: In the first draft we accidentally wrote "Dan" Murray, likely because of his similarities to Dan Singletary.

Incumbent Supervisor Tom Murray of Cobleskill has had a tumultuous tenure over the last four years, to say the least.

His first term was marred by the "N-word" incident which brought down Mayor Mark Nadeau and exposed Murray as, at the very least, having very poor judgement.

Meanwhile, his second term is even worse. He assisted in the Cobleskill water expansion which could destroy the business district and funnel money towards preferred businesses along the Route 7 corridor. On top of this, his poor negotiating skills helped kill any deal to get Guilford Mills up and running again.

However, since the release of the Fitzmaurice Report last month, it became apparent that Murray was a chief backer of the Ethingtons. Murray was involved in civil service abuse, rudeness, and wanted strong women "wrap[ped] in cotton."

Such behavior is over the line and deserves firing, but it got even more disrespectful on Friday.

Thomas Murray was one of three Supervisors that did not show up in time to vote on the suspension of Cassandra Ethington or to release the second portion of the Report. Murray showed incredible lack of couth in not coming to at least face the 50 people in the audience-- many of whom were people whose lives were destroyed or hurt by Cassandra Ethington. His blatant lack of respect to the people that make the County work while he has been allied with the suspended Personnel Director is far too far to accept.

Voters of Cobleskill: wrap Tom Murray up in cotton and send him packing with Cassandra Ethington.

Anti-Incumbent Fervor May Prevent Ethington's Firing

Written By Editor on 11/2/13 | 11/2/13

Cassandra Ethington will be on the chopping block in next month's hearing, but there could be a severe issue about whether or not she would actually be axed. If the Board of Supervisors receives a stay in the meeting and it is delayed until late December Cassandra Ethington may be untouchable.

The question of how this would even be possible comes to light.

Much of it comes from electoral math. Voters are rightfully angry with the Board of Supervisors, but this anger against the Board as a whole may allow certain Ethington allies to win on Tuesday.

Ethington's closest ally Dan Singletary of Jefferson is almost certainly going to be defeated on Tuesday, but his less than 2% of weighted votes on the Board is almost insignificant during the firing process.

If the largest share of weighted votes represented by Cobleskill can stay in the hands of Ethington ally Thomas Murray, nearly 50% of the Board's votes are in the Conservative Party's backing.

Meanwhile the former Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Harold Vroman of Summit, has no opposition.

The entire balance of the Board of Supervisors would then come down to the third-largest share of votes-- and the balance of the majority. This is the Schoharie race between the first voice for the investigation that brought down Cassandra Ethington, Gene Milone and Conservative Party-backed Martin Shrederis.

If Shrederis, a known associate of the Ethingtons, wins on Tuesday along with Murray, enough votes could keep Cassandra Ethington in her job-- perhaps on extended suspension with pay. Beyond this, there is the possibility that the new majority would open hearings to try and discredit the findings in the Fitzmaurice Report.

Voters want incumbents gone, but it appears that many of the problems in the County are not based on incumbency, but rather candidates' relationships with Todd and Cassandra Ethington.

Ethington: I Never Harrassed Employees

Embattled Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington took a defensive stance on the latest revelations regarding allegations that she violated various Civil Service and other laws. According to a report from YNN, she is completely innocent.
"I have never threatened a County employee. I have never harassed or bullied a County employee. I have spent my entire professional career at Schoharie County doing my best to serve the taxpayer and protect the rights of the hard working employees of Schoharie County."

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