By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO May 9, 2006 Former Sullivan County Department of Public Works Senior Fiscal Administrator Amy Winters will become the last DPW official to face possible removal by the county for actions related to two break-ins at the countys personnel office.
So far, former DPW Commissioner Peter Lilholt has resigned and is facing criminal charges. Former Deputy Commissioner Phil Nicoletti has been fired and is also facing criminal charges. Richard Caraluzzo, who was Director of Parks, Recreation and Beautification, has been removed from his job as well.
A similar fate could await Winters, who has been charged with attempting to obstruct an investigation into the incidents involving the department. Winters was part of the group that met with Legislator Kathy LaBuda in Bloomingburg last year and allegedly attempted to blackmail her with damaging information about her brother.
The county further alleges that during the time of the countys investigation between February and April of 2005, Winters lied about her performance and conduct. According to the county, Winters attempted to mislead the county and its investigator from the Albany law firm of Roemer, Wallens & Mineaux during the investigation into the break-ins.
The county alleged during previous hearings that Winters was involved with three aforementioned county employees, along with Bob Trotta, who entered the countys personnel office in the early morning hours on two occasions. They made photocopies of documents relating to the Personnel Departments investigation into alleged misconduct and a hostile working environment within the DPW.
In the first break-in, they allegedly photocopied confidential documents of county employees when the county was considering a new policy on compensation for county employees. Some of the files were alleged to have been found in the office of Winters.
Other charges against Winters include her allegedly submitting a document containing false information in connection with her applications for disability benefits.
The county alleged that her 2001 and 2002 application for disability benefits were criminal.
During the hearing on Thursday, witnesses called to testify on the stand included LaBuda, County Manager Harvey Smith, County Personnel Officer Pamela Rourke and County Attorney Sam Yasgur.
The Albany law firm handled this case rather than Yasgur, who handled the two previous hearings for the county.
Jonathan Lovett, attorney for Winters, said he would be filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county. He said the county threatened to fire her during its investigation. He also claimed that a letter current DPW Commissioner Robert Meyer wrote to the current hearing officer on this case was illegal.
The new hearings officer will be making a recommendation to the county, after which Meyer could rule whether or not Winters should be removed from her job.