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County legislators approve funds for investigation

By Fritz Mayer
June 25, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County legislators approved to spend funds for an outside person or agency to investigate “a number of serious complaints” lodged by employees and the administration of a specific county department.

At a meeting at the government center on June 19, legislators authorized spending up to $100,000 to pay a law firm to undertake the investigation.

During a discussion before the vote, legislators disagreed about taking the action. Legislator Kitty Vetter said, “I speak in opposition to this resolution because… I believe that we are now at a juncture to be asking the state to look over these issues.”

Legislator Kathy LaBuda said, “We as legislators have an obligation to protect the county and all the employees that work for our county. I was here when the Department of Public Works (DPW) scandal took place, and it cost this county hundreds of thousands of dollars. This resolution might seem like a lot of money, but in the long run it could save us millions.” [The DPW scandal involved the top two officials in the department who were accused of using county money to buy equipment for personal use, and accused of attempting to blackmail LaBuda to try to halt an investigation. The men ultimately pleaded guilty to various charges.]

Legislator Cindy Gieger said, “I find the resolution problematic for the simple reason that in the past there was a similar outside request for an investigation, we appropriated dollars and we were never given a report of that investigation. I agree with legislator Vetter that we should have the state look into these issues, and find out if policies and programs can be looked into, and the issues resolved internally.”

The vote was three to five with Gieger, Vetter and Alan Sorensen voting against, and LaBuda, Scott Samuelson, Ira Stengart, Gene Benson and Jonathan Rouis voting in favor. Cora Edwards was not in attendance.

It was not clear if the resolution was related to recent problems in the Department of Family Services (DFS). In November 2013, Gieger held a news conference to announce the arrest of two DFS staff members and one other person who were accused of filing false information.

A press release said state police and the county fraud unit “determined that false paperwork related to the application for housing, food stamps and HEAP had been submitted to Sullivan County between 2011 and 2013 by all three subjects.”