Gildemeister resigns as county's Public Health head
By Patsy Nicosia
Amy Gildemeister has resigned.
And in a lengthy letter to the Schoharie County Board of Health, she laid out the reasons why:
A hostile work environment, “reckless actions,” by the Board of Supervisors, and lies about her performance.
“The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has deliberately imposed conditions designed to severely restrict my ability to effectively carry out my duties…” in a way that “endangers the health and welfare of the citizens of Schoharie County,” Dr. Gildemeister wrote.
The complete text of the February 6—Monday--letter is in this week's Times-Journal.
Dr. Gildemeister’s resignation was effective 11:59:59pm yesterday—Wedesday the 8th; she has taken a job with the state as associate director of Nutrition Policy and Partnership.
Roy Korn, president of the Board of Health, said she will be sorely missed.
“We on the Board of Health would like to express our deep appreciation to Dr. Gildemeister for her dedicated work on behalf of county residents since 2014, in particular through the COVID-19 pandemic, for which the hours were many and the rewards were few,” Dr. Korn said in a written statement.
Underscoring Dr. Gildemeister’s work during COVID, Dr. Korn shared statistics from neighboring counties; Schoharie County had the lowest COVID-deaths in the region—1.3 deaths per 1,000 as compared to 4.5/1,000 in Montgomery County and 2.9/1,000 in Greene—and one of the lowest in the state.
“We wish her the best in her new endeavor,” Dr. Korn said.
In fact, it may be Dr. Gildemeister’s efforts on behalf of COVID that cost her her job.
Supervisors have never said why they weren’t reappointing Dr. Gildemeister, instead citing an evaluation of her “whole body of work.”
But Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner said in a letter to the editors that “Yes, her response to COVID had a role,” criticizing Dr. Gildemeister for failing to moderate the “often hysterical actions of New York State and the federal government.”
Addressing the damage to her reputation in her letter to the Board of Health, Dr. Gildemeister said no performance issues have ever been brought to the Board of Health, nor has she ever been notified of any specific allegations.
In fact, in her last performance evaluation before COVID-19, she said, she received high marks in every category as “a public servant Schoharie residents can be proud of.”
Dr. Korn said the Board of Health will be working with supervisors on naming an interim and then a new director “which we hope will be someone of Dr. Gildemeister’s caliber.”
Thursday, just days before Dr. Gildemeister’s letter, when there was as yet, no vacancy and so no position to fill, supervisors--—represented by Chair Bill Federice, Vice Chair Harold Vroman, Earlin Rosa, who now chairs the Public Health Committee, and County Administrator Korsah Akumfi—gave the Board of Health a list of possible candidates for the interim job.
The group went into executive session to discuss the list—but not before Board of Health member Stephen Strasser reacted to one of the names on it, Schoharie Mayor Larry Caza.
“Larry Caza? He’s a great guy, but he’s a mayor. I don’t see how…”
“It doesn’t have to be a fulltime position,” Mr. Federice said.
“I don’t know who any of these people are,” said Board of Health member Dr. Rebecca Eckel.
On the list:
• Otsego County Public Health Director Heidi Bond.
• Former Richmondville supervisor and nurse Betsy Bernocco.
• Deb McAllister, who’d previously served on the Board of Health, but reportedly resigned over disagreements on COVID masking policies.
• County Social Services Commissioner Donna Becker.
• Mayor Caza, who also works in the County Clerk’s office.
• Nancy Dingee, head of the county Office for the Aging.
• Kim Euler, who works in the Health Department.