Comment on County Workplace Report I have read with interest the report prepared to review the layoffs and

behaviors conducted by the County in 2011 and the lingering effects those layoffs have had on workplace morale. When the state and national economies “melted down” in 2008 and 2009, virtually every County in the state, including Schoharie County, was forced to make painful decisions about what services the County could afford to offer, some are mandated some are not, the Board focused on the non-mandated. The Board that was seated in 2010 and 2011 sent a message to the Department Heads to cut wherever they could, they wanted to keep spending under control and limit hiring in order to do right by the taxpayers. That inevitably led to the decisions made by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors to get out of the Home Health Agency business, which was housed in the County’s Health Department, as well as consolidate jobs in various departments that caused 15 employees to be laid off. The Personnel Department did not make those decisions; the Board of Supervisors made those decisions to address the real financial crisis the County was facing as well as a lack of available work. All of the affected employees were and still are protected by NYS Civil Service Law and the Local Civil Service Rules and Regulations that mandate how I am to process transactions, react to disciplines and approve appointments made by Appointing Authorities. Those laws, rules and regulations are very complicated and depend on the unique employment history of each employee. In general, they provide that when a County conducts layoffs they must be done in inverse order of seniority based on the relative seniority of all employees in a specific department and job title. That is further complicated by the right under the law to bump another

employee and/or retreat back into prior positions. That is a very complicated process that changes based on small variations in the unique work history and status of each employee. Because layoffs are complicated and the stakes are so high for the affected employees, all professional personnel managers prepare draft or contingency plan layoff lists in advance. That allows for the important checking and rechecking that occurs to make sure we get the many unique service calculations right. That is exactly what was done in 2011. It would have been irresponsible for the County to even consider layoffs without having draft layoff lists prepared in advance. Those draft lists allowed the Board of Supervisors to intelligently make the painful decisions that were required before it took the step to layoff employees. I never called a draft layoff list a “hit list” sadly some elected officials did for their own reasons, only hurting the employees. My office prepared draft and contingency layoff lists because it was my job as a responsible personnel officer to provide the best possible information to the Board of Supervisors so that they could make appropriate and difficult budget determinations on how Schoharie County would provide basic services with limited financial resources. After the Board of Supervisors made those difficult decisions, there were many County employees who received the awful news that they would be laid off. In doing so, we

meticulously followed the statute, the laws, the rules and regulations for determining which employees would be laid off once the County gave us the final budget numbers. Each decision was based on a detailed review of each employees work history and each civil service job they held. Only a very few employees brought grievances and court challenges seeking to review that process. Every Court and every arbitrator that reviewed the process found that we, the

County and I, appropriately applied the facts to the law. The New York State Civil Service Department was similarly consulted and it too found that I and the Civil Service Office appropriately applied the facts to the law in all of our transactions leading up to and after the layoffs. Those same employees brought proceedings suggesting that the process was tainted by discrimination. Those proceedings were also dismissed after a review found no evidence of wrongdoing, they appealed them and again were unfounded. The Report intentionally minimizes this significant fact that the New York State Courts, responsible State Agencies and even arbitrators have repeatedly found the County and the County Personnel Department applied the correct facts to the law and made the correct decisions. The Board of Supervisors has the right to pass a budget that restores the funding that allows for employees to be rehired by the County. That is a decision for the Board of Supervisors, the same Board that made the tough decision in 2011 to layoff hard working employees. In 2012, if the newly seated Board disagreed with the decisions of the 2011 Board they could have immediately refunded all of the positions that were laid off, only they have that power. State law does not allow me or the Board to pick one employee over another for favored treatment in a layoff and/or for a recall after a layoff. The report incorrectly alleges that I acted inappropriately with County employees in connection with the layoff or in other situations. That is false and numerous Judges Decisions, Arbitrator Decisions, and State Agency Decisions have so found after an examination based on evidence, not hearsay and gossip. 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. In the process, I have come to respect the legitimate privacy interest of all County employees. Those legitimate privacy interests mandate that we do not make a public spectacle out of their employment circumstances, whether they are good or bad, or the devastating impact that the layoffs had on valuable employees. The fact that the report loses site of that is unfortunate. I am not going to violate my public trust and obligation by engaging in similar name calling and behaviors. Respectfully,

Cassandra Ethington

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