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 27th, 2014

Explosive Lawsuits and Allegations at DFS

Sullivan County Legislator Cindy Gieger has been on mission to clean up welfare fraud and other abuse and neglect at the Department of Health and Family Services. Along with several of her colleagues they have made tremendous inroads, but while doing so they are finding resistance coming from some of the most powerful and politically connected people.

In fact, there are so many strong family and friendship ties connected to those at DFS and other parts of Sullivan County Government it is blatantly scandalous.

I have seen a chart connecting certain dots and it is shocking and disturbing to say the least.

No matter what one thinks of Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker he is attempting to do his job, but while doing so, he is stepping on many toes. And, those who are part of our “Old Boys Club” do not like what he is doing.

Parker’s first mission was to crackdown on welfare fraud. We can all agree that people who need public assistance must receive it. As we all know, we were known as the county for people to come for public assistance.

Respected investigator Gerard Dietz was hired to look into welfare fraud, and so far his work has been quite impressive. Because of his success there was an attempt by some to muzzle Dietz and make him go away.

Thankfully, DA Jim Farrell along with legislators Cindy Gieger, Cora Edwards, Kitty Vetter, Gene Benson, and some others stepped in and realigned Dietz’s position to be part of the District Attorney’s Office so his investigations can continue.

What Parker also found was a backroom scramble by some of those in power to protect certain people – in particular Department of Family Services Senior Attorney Colleen Cunningham.

If you recall, former County Legislator David Sager was abruptly fired by Parker from his position as Deputy Commissioner without explanation.

Many feel Sager’s firing was partially the result of a longtime feud and power play between Sager and Cunningham. Sager has since filed a lawsuit against Sullivan County in New York State Supreme Court.

Colleen is the sister of former Sullivan County Legislature Chairman and former Health and Family Services Commissioner Christopher Cunningham. The Cunningham family has close political ties to County Attorney Samuel Yasgur, and legislators Kathleen LaBuda, Jonathan Rouis, and Scott Samuelson.

Sager’s complaint includes allegations against the Department of Family Services legal department which was then headed by Cunningham.

Sager’s lawsuit is entering the deposition phase and the findings are expected to be explosive.
We can expect Parker to spill the beans as to how Sager went from being praised for the job he was doing to being fired.

The NAACP as well as others has raised concerns, questions, and allegations of laziness, wrongdoings, misconduct, neglect of duties, and dirty backroom politics at its worst and best at the Department of Family Services.

Back in April, very quietly without much fanfare, Sullivan County Officials received notification that Department of Family Services Senior Attorney Colleen Cunningham was planning on suing Sullivan County and Department of Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker.

Cunningham retained discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys Gould and Berg from White Plains.

Cunningham is angry that Parker hired managing attorney Kristin Cahill who is now overseeing the Department of Family Services legal team and is reporting to him.

Cahill is assisting in cleaning up the fraud at the Department of Family Services and Family Court related cases and complains that have apparently gone nowhere.

At the center of this dispute is Parker’s claim that Cunningham was not doing her job. Some say she apparently looked the other when issues such as welfare fraud and cases of abuse came in front of her. Others argue that she did her job to the fullest.

Cunningham claims in legal papers that there is a “Malicious attempt to force involuntary resignation; intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Cunningham, who earns, $76,221, alleges that she reported to Parker a violation of law creating a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Specifically that two employees of the division observed neglect of a child on the part of a parent, but acted in violation of the law in that they failed to report their observations of suspected neglect for 14 days.

She says she reported to Parker her concerns about the two employees, and requested an investigation and whistleblower protection.

Cunningham claims that following her request, the defendants have “engaged in a continuous course of conduct which most recently has culminated in stripping Cunningham of the responsibilities of her protected civil service competitive title thereby resulting in the adverse employment actions of a de facto demotion and/or a suspension with pay, in violations of law.”

Cunningham’s complaint says, “Parker’s false suggestions of incompetence on the part of Cunningham, Parker’s proposing to hire so-called independent counsel to investigate the handling of certain DFS cases, thus implying that those cases had not been properly handled by DFS attorneys, including Cunningham, Parker’s public announcement at a meeting of managers his intention to hire a “Managing Attorney” to supervise Cunningham, herself a supervisor and the proposal by Parker, acted upon by the Sullivan County Legislature to “reinstate” the long-dormant position of “Managing Attorney,” for the purpose of oversee(ing) a variety of facets of the social services system in the county, including the legal and child protective services departments, (the Department that Cunningham was overseeing) at a compensation rate of $80,000 a year (excluding benefits).”

Cunningham who says she performed her duties to the fullest, claims since Cahill’s hiring she was stripped of her supervisory responsibilities, deprived of the ability to exercise independent judgment with respect to tasks she undertakes, is subject to micromanagement virtually every moment of the day and that she was forced to attend meetings on short notice.

Cunningham also claims she was humiliated by the demands, upon information and belief, of Parker communicated through Cahill that she immediately leave court where she was appearing to attend such meetings by being told that she immediately leave court where she was appearing to attend such meetings by being told “she better get going.”

In addition, Cunningham alleges that Parker demanded the keys to her office and ‘has upon information and belief, searched her desk, her files and her personal items.”

Most recently, Cunningham says she has been asked “to provide information regarding a matter that is five years old that was allegedly “mishandled” in the administration of the former Commissioner of Health and Family Services (her brother Christopher).

In response to all this, Sullivan County hired McCabe Associates, a private investigative firm to perform “actual investigations.”

The reasoning according to the County in hiring the investigation firm is because of “serious complains submitted by County employees with respect to a Department of County Government. The administration of the Department has likewise complained about certain employees. It is incumbent on the County to look into these complaints.”

The McCabe firm estimates that the cost of their investigation will be between $75,000 to $100,000, and that and additional $50,000 to $100,000 might be required to engage a law firm.

The McCabe firm and the law firm will both work under the direction and report to County Manager Josh Potosek.

Meanwhile, Parker has retained Sullivan County’s respected Orseck Law firm as his independent Counsel, and I understand Parker’s response to Cunningham’s complaint is explosive towards her to say the least.

Stay tuned this is all just the beginning.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on 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.

1 comment to Explosive Lawsuits and Allegations at DFS

  • james m contrys

    long overdue , keep up the good work and keep digging . it is time to make sullivan county a better place .