Report supports ouster of Delaware DSS chief

Scuderi-Hunter

Delaware County Social Services Commissioner Dana Scuderi-Hunter should be fired, according to the officer who presided over a disciplinary hearing against her. Her firing could happen Wednesday.

In a decision dated Dec. 6, Alfred T. Riccio, the Clifton Park hearing officer chosen by Delaware County, said he found the county proved most of its allegations against Scuderi-Hunter during a hearing that spanned several days over several weeks.

In the decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Star, Riccio wrote: "After reviewing the Record of evidence and the arguments of the County and Respondent, it is the opinion of the Hearing Officer that the County has met its burden of proof by substantial evidence that the sustained Charges against Respondent justify her termination. Therefore, it is my recommendation that Dana Scuderi -Hunter be terminated from her position as Delaware County Commissioner of Social Services."

Scuderi-Hunter's professional fate will likely be decided at Wednesday's meeting of the county's Board of Supervisors. In a memorandum accompanying the distribution of pre-filed resolutions for the meeting, Board Clerk Christa Schafer wrote: "Please be advised, it is anticipated a decision in the Dana Scuderi-Hunter case will be forthcoming prior to the Board meeting. It is further anticipated that a not-prefiled resolution will be voted upon to accept or reject the hearing officer's recommendation."

The decision document said Tina Molé, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, filed disciplinary charges pursuant to state Civil Service Law on Aug. 15.

In its filing, the county claimed Scuderi-Hunter engaged in conduct unbecoming an employee of Delaware County, committed insubordination, misconduct and "a breach of duty of loyalty," mismanagement and a breach of trust.

The allegations were made in seven charges, containing 184 specifications. Twenty-seven witnesses testified during nine days of the hearing in September and October.

Most of the charges and testimony involved cases of children in the foster-care system, and conflicts between Scuderi-Hunter and probation officials over the handling of children who were accused of criminal behavior.

It was also alleged that Scuderi-Hunter behaved unprofessionally, both in her dealings with other department heads and employees in her department.

Much of the conflict involved County Attorney Amy Merklen, who disagreed with Scuderi-Hunter in the foster-care cases. Scuderi-Hunter alleged that Merklen was guilty of conflict of interest when she advocated for county Probation Department officials in those cases, in opposition to Scuderi-Hunter, who was the legal custodian of the children involved.

Riccio found there was not a conflict of interest, as the Department of Social Services could have engaged other attorneys to represent the department and the children in its care.

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