Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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June 20th, 2013

Did Cunningham Win Over Sager?

As employees at the Department of Family Services are parading wristbands proclaiming “WE SUPPORT DAVID,” Commissioner of Health and Family Services Randy Parker is claiming firing David Sager was making a right out of wrong.

Despite the fact that he repeatedly praised Sager for his work, and even discussed giving him more responsibilities, Parker now claims he was pressured by unnamed people into hiring Sager even though he says he knew he was unqualified for the job.

As community activists gather petitions demanding for an investigation into Sager’s firing, and Sager himself files a lawsuit, we all need to reflect on the recent revelations. Pieces of a puzzle are beginning to come together as we connect the dots.

In order to answer many of the questions and concerns raised by Sager’s complaint against Parker and Sullivan County, we need to look back in history.

Allegations have been levied in Sager’s complaint against the Department of Family Services legal department, many of which have been echoed in a recent Freedom of Information (FOIL) submitted by the Sullivan County Chapter of the NAACP.

At the root of these concerns are questions and allegations of laziness, wrongdoings, misconduct, neglect of duties, and dirty backroom politics at its worst and best.

The legal department at DFS has the responsibility in protecting the most fragile within our community. But, were they?

We just need to look at the basic journalistic questions of who, what, where, when and why to figure out why Sager was fired the way he was.

By now most people know that Colleen Cunningham is the Senior Attorney in DFS Legal and a former political powerbroker in Sullivan County. It is also well known that her brother Chris Cunningham was the past chairman of the Legislature and former Commissioner of Health and Family Services prior to Parker.

Sager, although a Democrat now, was elected as a Republican legislator representing Cunningham’s old district. Sager and The Cunninghams have rarely gotten along and their feuds over the years have been bitter, vocal, and widely known.

Many political insiders questioned how Coleen and David could get along working together in the same department. Sager and Cunningham claim they maintained a professional relationship, but in reality, perhaps it was only on the surface.

Let’s take a walk down “Sullivan County Memory Lane” to further understand what I am talking about. While Christopher Cunningham was Chairman of the Legislature, some glaring events took place.

Ira Cohen’s contract was not renewed as County Attorney. Sam Yasgur was hired as County Attorney. Dan Briggs was fired as County Manager. David Fanslau was hired as County Manager.

There were also some very bad and costly land purchases, allegations of nepotism, and a DPW scandal matched with a fire in the government center supposedly related to that scandal. To this day, Yasgur refuses to divulge what documents were destroyed in his office.

While Chairman of the Legislature, sister Colleen was a member of the DFS Legal team, if not the Senior Attorney, responsible for all activities within the department.

With Chris Cunningham as Chairman of the Legislature, Sam Yasgur as legal counsel, and David Fanslau as manager, what government employee was ever going to question the actions of Chris Cunningham or his family?

With all the power that Chris Cunningham wielded, who was going to observe, evaluate, or reprimand people like his sister and close friend Colleen?

Without any requests for applications, candidate searches, or interviews, former Chairman Christopher Cunningham was appointed in November 2007 to become Commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Family Services by the legislature

During his tenure as Commissioner, Cunningham expanded Colleen’s influence by giving her the responsibility to oversee the DFS Fraud Unit, and the responsibility for detecting and pursuing fraud within our welfare system.

As Sullivan County was quickly becoming the “Welfare Gravy Train” as it is known today – Why wasn’t anyone working to stop the fraud?

When Cindy Gieger, Kitty Vetter, Cora Edwards, Gene Benson and others began to ask questions they heard one excuse after another.

Recently, we have seen significant savings in HEAP and homeless housing costs. There is now an aggressive agenda to go after fraud and recoup county monies. Gerard Dietz was hired as a fraud investigator, and suddenly in just a few short weeks look at all the fraud he has uncovered.

We must seriously ask – Why wasn’t anyone held accountable for all the years our county looked the other way? Who really stood the most to lose as the Department of Family Services underwent an overhaul? It certainly wasn’t David Sager.
There are some serious questions we need answered that coincide with Sager’s abrupt firing.

Sources tell me that since February, Chris Cunningham has been spending a lot of time in the government center, and was spotted in the waiting area of acting County Manager Josh Potosek’s office when Parker was allegedly summoned to fire Sager. Such coincidences just don’t happen.

There are also stories of shredding documents at DFS since Sager was fired.

It is time the Sullivan County Legislature announces that they are conducting a complete investigation into the affairs that led up to Sager’s firing.

Aside from all the dirty politics, there are also some jaw-dropping questions that need answering pertaining to Parker including foster care and taking WIC private.

Simple Google searches have also revealed a number of serious court cases involving Parker during his tenure in Richland County, Ohio. Perhaps the mutual settlement with a gag order should have tipped them off.

There are also allegations that Parker has missed more than 40 days from work since starting his job in October.

I am told numerous grievances have been filed against Parker for what is generally considered hostile and aggressive behavior.

An overwhelming number of former employees from Richland County have found their way to Sullivan County Facebook pages and are telling horror story after horror story about Parker’s pattern of behavior there.

Was Sager really fired because of the Cunningham feud? Did Parker have to make a decision because he was told to?
Clearly – there needs to be some significant house cleaning and investigations in Sullivan County.

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Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in the Sullivan County Post

2 comments to Did Cunningham Win Over Sager?

  • Ernesto M. Salvatico Jr.

    Bill, has any of this information of the alleged fraud, and corruption that has been going on in Sullivan County Government Departments, made it’s way to the New york Governor’s office? If it’s been brought to the Governor’s attention, What is he doing about it? Is his office investigating any of these fraud and corruption allegation? What is the status of these investigations? All of this fraud and corruption needs to be handled before the Casino projects are in place. A good government building house cleaning is in order at this present time in Sullivan County. Let’s hope this house cleaning occurs before November of this year. Thank you Bill, for alerting us of the apparently dirty on goings in Sullivan County. Town of Thompson.

  • There’s more here than eyes the meat. I’ve gotta tell you, folks: These Sullivan County pols put the fun in dysfunctional. Seriously.

    Tom Degan