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Former deputy commissioner sues Sullivan County; retaliatory firing charged

Attorney Michael Sussman speaks at a news conference about the lawsuit filed against the county by the former deputy commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Family Services.

By Fritz Mayer

June 12, 2013

High-profile attorney Michael Sussman said Dr. David Sager has filed a lawsuit against Sullivan County for what he called retaliatory firing. Speaking at a packed news conference at the government center in Monticello on June 12, Sussman said that Sager, who was serving as a deputy commissioner in the Sullivan County Division of Family Services (DFS) was fired in retaliation for looking into a number of cases that were mishandled.

Sussman said that the part of the motivation for the firing may have been to protect other members of DFS who were responsible for some of the cases in question, which included cases of sexual child abuse that Sager was looking into “with an eye toward cleaning them up.”

Sager was fired by DFS commissioner Randy Parker on May 16, which came as a surprise to many people familiar with county operations. Parker subsequently told a newspaper that he fired Sager because Sager, a chiropractor, did not have sufficient social service experience to adequately serve in the position.

At the news conference, Sussman disputed that. He said that previous to the firing, Parker had praised Sager’s work and in fact expanded his role in DFS.

Sussman also said that Sager would be willing to communicate with the acting county manager, Joshua Potosek, and detail the allegations about what had taken place within DFS.

Sussman added that he had heard just before the news conference that some destruction of documents may be underway as a means to cover up alleged wrongdoing. He said. “Those in Sullivan County who are responsible for maintaining books and records and files that relate to important functions of government would be blatantly violating the law, if they were to destroy any materials that were pertinent to these allegations. Any shredding of material, any destruction of material will be met by the courts, in my view, very sternly.”

Sager declined to address the 70 or so people in attendance at the news conference.

Legislator Gene Benson was one of the members of the audience. He said he would have liked to comment, but he could not do so because the issue is a matter of litigation.