Smithtown’s animal shelter director, who was suspended earlier this year over accusations that the facility had become chaotic and filthy, was fired this week, an attorney for the town said.
The Town Board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to terminate an unnamed employee, and Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio would not comment on the matter this week. But Scott Middleton, the attorney who represented the town in a disciplinary hearing this spring for former director Sue Hansen, confirmed Thursday that the board had terminated Hansen.
The independent hearing officer who had presided over that four-day hearing, James Clark, had recommended in a July 18 report that Hansen be fired, calling her a “dedicated animal activist” who was nevertheless “not suited for the role of Director.”
He recommended that the Town Board find her guilty of five of seven charges of incompetence and mismanagement, faulting her for waiting months to fix inoperable fire alarms, storing official records in outdoor dog kennels and allowing conditions to deteriorate to the point where town employees visiting the shelter complained of fleas and rodent droppings and an eye-watering stench.
Hansen did not respond to requests for comment this week. Paul Dashefsky, her union-appointed attorney, also did not respond to requests for comment. At the hearing, Dashefsky had portrayed Hansen as an innovative, driven leader brought in to turn around the troubled shelter but hamstrung by an indifferent town bureaucracy and senior officials who had given her little assistance or training.
Clark largely dismissed those claims. “She cannot avoid responsibility for the problems that her decisions ultimately created,” he wrote in his report.
Hansen, 61, of Rocky Point, started her job in August 2015 and was paid a salary of about $84,138. A town public safety employee with a background in animal care has been running the shelter since her February suspension.
In March, Hansen was charged with misdemeanor trespass after allegedly entering the shelter to attend a volunteer orientation, even though town officials told her to stay away during her suspension. She was released on her own recognizance with a desk appearance ticket and is due back in court Aug. 16, according to records.
Hansen since has filed a notice of claim announcing her intention to sue the town and several town employees and officials, including Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo, for $500,000 over her arrest.
According to the claim, which does not address Hansen’s suspension, Inzerillo was at the center of a plan to ensure her removal from the shelter supervisor’s job. Inzerillo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We find the allegations and the notice of claim to have absolutely no merit,” said Middleton, who is representing the town in the matter.
But Matthew Weinick, the lawyer representing Hansen in her civil case, said the intent behind her arrest “was malicious.”
“Why should there be any reason to arrest a peaceful 61-year-old woman who just wanted to volunteer at the animal shelter?” Weinick said. “It’s just bizarre.”