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Intimidation alleged in $305,000 Schoharie County report

A 104-page report from a White Plains law firm suggests problems in Schoharie County government, including allegations of age discrimination, intimidation and harassment. The county's Board of Supervisors has had the report, which cost more than $300,000, for months but only approved its partial release Thursday night. A second part of the report containing recommendations remains sealed, its contents to be known - for now - only to the board members and people in the Department of Personnel and Civil Service. Board Chairman Philip Skowfoe told CBS6 News it is possible the full report will be forwarded to the Attorney General's office or the District Attorney's office.

The report was authored by attorney Mark Fitzmaurice, who was awarded a contract in October 2012 to "evaluate the current state of affairs and relationships, pertaining to prior reported or unreported acts of discrimination, harassment and/or intimidation in the Schoharie County workplace." The initial amount approved for the work was $50,000. The Board of Supervisor later voted to approve a series of increases that topped $300,000.

Most of the allegations center on Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington, who is accused of being verbally abusive and to have enjoyed "unfettered authority" that the investigators found difficult to fathom, given the checks and balances of government. Contacted by phone Friday night, Ms. Ethington declined comment and hung up.

Board Chairman Philip Skowfoe suggested the money spent on the survey of about 400 county employees is far less than what the county might have had to pay out if a lawsuit had resulted from the board doing nothing about the allegations. He said the second part of the report should stay sealed - and all but one Supervisor agreed - in order to protect a possible criminal investigation.

Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone, quoted in the report as having told Ethington, "Your reign of terror is over," said he thinks the second part should also be made public now, saying it would shed light on the veracity of the allegations made - often by people who are not named - in the first part.

The report can be found on the Schoharie County web page.


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