The Malta Town Board has called for the resignation of longtime Town Clerk Flo Sickels after reaching a $100,000 settlement with a deputy clerk who claimed a “hostile work environment.”
The settlement, most of which will come from an insurance company, “would not have been necessary but for the behavior of the town clerk,” the Town Board said in a resolution passed Monday night following an hourlong executive session.
The resolution called on Sickels to “resign her position as being in the best interests of the town.”
Sickels has been town clerk for nearly 24 years, but in the past couple of years has been dogged by allegations about doing political work in her town office and assigning her deputies to do political work.
This spring, she lost the support of the town Republican Committee in her re-election effort, so she will be leaving office Dec. 31 even if she does not resign sooner.
Because Sickels holds an elected office, the Town Board cannot fire her or force her from office, though it can request she resign.
The resolution passed by a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Maggi Ruisi voting against it. “I’m very disappointed, and I vote no,” Ruisi said.
Councilwoman Tara Thomas, who is Sickels’ daughter, has recused herself from recent discussions surrounding her mother’s conduct and left Town Hall prior to the executive session on the matter.
All those involved are Republicans, making this an unusually public inter-party fight.
On Tuesday, the town Republican Committee also called for Sickels to resign from office.
“Taxpayers of Malta deserve elected officials who hold themselves to the highest moral, ethical and fiscally-conservative standards. When an elected official breaches the trust residents place in them, they can no longer responsibly hold office,” said town GOP Chairman Ted Willette.
Town Board candidate Timothy Dunn also issued a statement calling for Sickels to go, as did Patricia Ruggles, whom the Republican Committee has endorsed to run for town clerk in November.
Deputy Town Clerk Jennifer Chudy, who filed a written complaint about working conditions in the clerk’s office last October and filed a $3 million notice of claim against the town in November, went on paid leave as of June 23, and will resign her position as of July 3, according to the settlement agreement. She is waiving her right to make further claims against the town.
Sickels did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Chudy had charged there was “egregious and inappropriate conduct” against her by Sickels over a period of months in 2014.
In her notice against the town, Chudy alleged “harassment and bullying” by Sickels, who is her boss.
Chudy said she was required to work uncompensated overtime, and charged that the Town Board did not respond appropriately to her complaints. She alleged the conduct occurred in the spring and summer of 2014, ultimately resulting in her having an “emotional breakdown” in the late summer which caused her to go out of work. She later returned to work, but an employment specialist retained by the time was unable to resolve the matter.
The notice of claim led to a settlement conference on June 22 before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David R. Homer that resolved in the settlement.
Of the $100,000 being paid to Chudy, insurance will pay $95,000, but the town will have to pay $5,000 from its own funds.
Sickels appointed Chudy a deputy clerk in September 2013 after terminating former deputy clerk Linda Deprey. Deputy clerks typically serve at the town clerk’s pleasure.
The Malta town clerk earned $55,776 in 2014.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: