Employee Number 346, presumably Social Services Commissioner Dana Scuderi-Hunter, was suspended when the Delaware County Board of Supervisors met and voted on August 28.
The meeting scheduled for 1:00 p.m. didn’t start until 1:12 as the BOS was said to be in a confidential meeting with its attorney. The vote was the board’s first public acknowledgement of the ongoing controversy and was approved with a final weighted vote of 3,578 to 1,089. Four supervisors voted against the resolution, including Wayne Marshfield of Hamden, Bud Gladstone of Andes, Tom Hynes of Roxbury, and Eugene Pigford of Sidney.
Marshfield is the Chairman of the Social Services Committee and was the first supervisor to acknowledge the possible suspension of Scuderi- Hunter. He was the only supervisor who chose to speak before the vote on what has become one of the county’s most controversial actions taken in recent years. Opposition
“I oppose this resolution. I think it’s time to put an end to these expenses whether they’re attorney fees, stenography fees, or hearing officer fees. Right now, they’re on the backs of our taxpayers and I’m not fond of that needless to say,” Marshfield said. Scuderi-Hunter has been receiving her normal salary since being placed on paid leave on July 9. Her annual salary of $96,254 was unanimously approved by the BOS at its April 24 meeting.
All four who opposed the resolution except Gladstone are members of the Social Services Committee. Supervisors Jeffrey Taggart of Franklin and Jerry Vernold of Hancock are also on the Social Services Committee and both voted in favor of the suspension.
Taggart, who paused and groaned before voting yes, told the News after the meeting, “It’s a tough decision.” When asked if it was the toughest decision of his career, he said, “It probably is because I am on the committee.”
Taggart said he could not comment on whether he knew what the charge or charges being brought against Scuderi- Hunter are. When asked if he believed whether the county has acted legally throughout the process, he hesitated again, and said, “I believe so, yes. I also think it might have been handled a little bit differently.”
When the vote was final, the room, which was filled largely with Social Service employees, began to empty. One employee was heard saying, “This is awful” as they exited the room.
Social Services support
The News caught up with two Social Services employees outside the meeting who voiced their f r ust rat ions with the county and their support for Scuderi- Hunter. Lisa Peaster, a Social Services employee of 37 years, and Doris Quinn, a Social Services employee of 12 years, both confirmed they and others had been advised against speaking out on the issue by BOS Chair Tina Mole’. Both said they were threatened with discipline if they did speak out.
“We want Dana back. She’s an excellent commissioner,” Quinn said, adding, “We’re totally disgusted by the system.”
In the parking lot outside the County Offices, nearly two dozen cars were plastered with signs of support for Scuderi- Hunter and condemnation for county officials such as Mole’ and Merklen. Many signs read “Free Dana” while one sign read, “Tina and Amy shame on both of you!”
When asked by the News if she believed the county had acted legally throughout the process, Mole’ said, “Absolutely.”
The resolution passed ratifies “certain charges dated August 15, 2019 against Employee No. 346” and authorizes Mole’, as Chair of the Board, to serve the charges against the “Respondent, and to take those actions necessary to commence the proceeding, and all such actions by the Chairman are ratified and approved…”
The resolution goes on to appoint Alfred T. Riccio as Hearing Officer at a cost of $750 per day plus expenses. Scuderi-Hunter’s fate could be determined as soon as September, when a meeting about her employment is expected to be held. Until then, she will continue to be placed on suspension with pay.
Notably, County Attorney Amy Merklen was absent from the meeting. Merklen has been seen by many as the instigator of the controversy and subsequent suspension of Scuderi-Hunter for at least two known disagreements between the two. Merklen penned a letter dating June 11 that accused Scuderi-Hunter of wrongdoing stemming from a court case involving a minor that was in Scuderi-Hunter’s custody. Scuderi-Hunter has since pushed back, denied any wrongdoing, and has accused Merklen’s dual role as County Attorney and attorney for the Department of Social Services of “blurr[ing] her ability to engage in an objective and helpful assessment of this matter.”