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Civil service hearing for Smithtown shelter director ends

Smithtown Animal Shelter director Sue Hansen in Nov.

Smithtown Animal Shelter director Sue Hansen in Nov. 2016. Hansen was suspended Jan. 31, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A lawyer for the Town of Smithtown on Thursday used his final questions in the civil service disciplinary hearing for animal shelter director Sue Hansen to sow doubt about her management and accomplishments.

Lawyer Scott Middleton said that Hansen, charged by town officials this spring with misconduct and incompetence, was to blame for poor conditions at the shelter during her leadership there, from summer 2015 through early 2017.

“Ultimately, everything that happens at the animal shelter is your responsibility,” he said.

Middleton said that Hansen violated union work and overtime rules. He suggested she was slow to adopt a proper purchasing system for food and supplies, and to ask for needed repairs to critical systems like a fire alarm for the aging building.

He also asked a series of questions about euthanization of animals at the shelter. For her part, Hansen declined to answer each question, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination on the advice of her lawyer, Paul Dashefsky.

Dashefsky used his questions to complete a portrait of Hansen as an innovative leader trying to improve the lives of the animals under her care with initiatives such as expanded outreach and replacing metal dog choke collars in use when she arrived with softer models.

He depicted town leadership as concerned above all with containing costs.

Town officials were considering privatizing the shelter in December 2016, Hansen testified. She said the town made it clear from the start that she needed to adhere to a budget cap of about 1 percent in her annual spending plan.

The lawyers must submit written closing statements to the hearing officer by June 28. He will make a recommendation to the town board which could range from reinstatement with no penalty for Hansen to termination.

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