Schoharie County personnel officer blasted in report
Charges of harassment, intimidation and playing politics are leveled against Schoharie County Personnel Officer Cassandra Ethington in a 56-page report released on Friday by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors.
Ethington, who was placed on administrative leave with pay on Friday, is accused in the report of harassing then-County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack, singling out employees to lay off, conspiring to take over the health department, awarding a political crony a job and being incompetent.
A copy of the report is available below.
The report is the second from the law firm Fitzmaurice & Walsh, which started looking into allegations of workplace harassment in the county last October. The Board of Supervisors requested the outside investigation in order to determine whether there was a pattern or instances of ongoing intimidation or discrimination that led to a rash of county employees filing complaints against their bosses.
Lawyer from Fitzmaurice & Walsh determined in their first report, a 107-page document released to the public on Oct. 24 and based on interviews with about 400 employees and their supervisors, that the county government was dysfunctional and said there was “incivility, rudeness and outright hostility between board members, department heads, employees and members of the public.”
The second report, which conducted additional interviews and reviewed employees’ emails, paints a picture of Ethington conspiring with a handful of board supervisors to oust then-Public Health Director Kathleen Strack so she could take over, which ended up happening, despite later claims that she never ran the department. Emails from Ethington show her criticizing the management of Strack and making disparaging remarks about her to board supervisors, while also suggesting to at least one supervisor in an email that she would like to be considered for the post.
Ethington is also accused of rewriting a job description for a cleaner position so it could go to an unidentified person who worked on a political campaign with her. The person, who got the job, stated that they saw the job posting online, despite applying for the post before it was advertised online and sending repeated emails to Ethington about getting a job. Shortly before this candidate was considered, the job description was rewritten to exclude the two current cleaners from applying.
Ethington, whose husband Todd is a candidate on the Conservative and Independence lines for county sheriff in Tuesday’s election, passed on several opportunities to meet with investigators for the second report. She would not take questions on Saturday about the report, citing the advice of counsel, but did have a prepared rebuttal.
“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,” Ethington wrote.
Supervisor Gene Milone, D-Schoharie, who called for the investigation last year, said the report met all his expectations and then some. “It’s just outrageous what has taken place in this county,” he said. “We had a personnel officer who was totally out of control.”
A full story will be in the Sunday issue of the Daily Gazette
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