Former county health chief testifies at retaliation trial

Dr. Patricia Dillon, Suffolk's former acting director of Dr. Patricia Dillon, Suffolk's former acting director of public health, filed her suit in November 2007, after she was suspended. Photo Credit: John H. Cornell Jr.

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Suffolk officials testified they had trouble finding a job that was a good fit at the Suffolk jail in September 2007 for Dr. Patricia Dillon, the former acting director of public health, when she was transferred to the Riverhead facility to perform unspecified duties.

Her direct supervisor, Dr. Vincent Geraci, the jail's medical programs administrator, testified Wednesday that he wasn't sure of Dillon's credentials but had hoped she'd be able to perform basic gynecological care, an area in which Dillon has testified she promptly told her superiors she had no training.

"You didn't know what, if any, board certifications she possessed, correct?" Dillon's attorney Raymond Baierlein of Jericho asked Geraci.

"Correct," Geraci testified, adding that he thought Dillon, whose board certifications are in preventive medicine and public health, could "shadow" nurse practitioners and physicians until she felt comfortable enough on her own.

Dillon wants to show the federal jury in Central Islip that she never should have been assigned to the jail, from which she was suspended after complaining about inmate care and refusing to return copies of inmate medical charts.

Her lawsuit claims the county took adverse employment actions, suspending and firing her in retaliation for her speaking up about the care. But the county maintains her allegations were irrelevant to her suspension and dismissal.

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Former Suffolk Health Commissioner Humayun Chaudhry testified Tuesday that he wasn't sure what Dillon would do in her new job, and didn't review her file extensively or ask her what tasks she could perform.

"We didn't get into specifics," Chaudhry testified, adding Geraci would determine her duties.

Both officials took the stand this week as the trial stemming from Dillon's suit proceeded before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt. Dillon sued the two administrators and the county in November 2007, two months after her suspension, seeking unspecified damages.

On direct examination by Megan O'Donnell, representing the county, Geraci testified his actions were in response to Dillon's stubbornness: She disobeyed a direct order, lacked enthusiasm for the job, made copies without authorization, implied crimes took place at the jail, and declined to see patients.

Geraci told Dillon she was suspended and had correction officers escort her from the premises on Sept. 13, 2007.

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