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October 29, 2013

Treasurer: Report was mislabeled

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry accused his county’s lawmakers Monday of misrepresenting a scathing report on the behavior of certain county officials, pointing out it was an earlier version that has since been amended and completed.

“I find it disturbing that the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has intentionally misled the press and the public by releasing an eight-month-old summary of undocumented hearsay and deceptively labeled it as a ‘final report,’” Cherry said of an action taken last week by the county board.

County government spent more than $300,000 for an investigation into alleged abusive treatment of employees by certain county officials. Cherry was one of those named in the 104-page document released last week. Prepared by the Westchester County law firm of Fitzmaurice and Walsh, the document, now posted on the county web site, made reference to an allegation that Cherry tongue-lashed a female employee, a charge Cherry vigorously disputed.

Among other county officials criticized in the report was the personnel director, Cassandra Ethington, whose husband, Deputy Sheriff Todd Ethington, is one of two candidates trying to unseat Sheriff Tony Desmond in next week’s election.

Phil Skowfoe, the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors and the Fulton town supervisor, said Cherry was correct in pointing out that the document issued last week was not the final report. He said the final report is not being released because the town supervisors believe it should first be reviewed by either the local District Attorney’s office or the state Attorney General’s office because of the possibility it could lead to prosecution of certain individuals.

Skowfoe suggested there was no corroboration to the allegation that Cherry was abusive to any employees, noting there are significant differences in the final report and the document that was issued last week.

“Bill Cherry is a pillar of our community,” Skowfoe said. “He’s a real asset here.”

The preliminary report said that Schoharie County workers toil in an atmosphere of “general dysfunction.”

Skowfoe said he believes the findings will be very valuable in helping to improve county government, and that the expense for the investigation, while significant, will prove to be worth it to the county. He said he has already heard from several county employees who expressed appreciation for the effort to get to the bottom of various allegations.

Jefferson Town Supervisor Dan Singletary has argued the report should never have been commissioned and will end up being used by people with a political agenda.

Cherry said the law firm that completed the preliminary report freely admitted in the 104-page documented that it wanted to collect rumor and innuendo, and didn’t care about where the information came from when those who were interviewed were questioned.