Suspension without pay due to expire Saturday
By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
Otsego County Probation Director Roy Spina is contesting drunken-driving charges after an accident Dec. 8 in the town of Roseboom.
On that night, Spina, 42, and Sophia Panageas, 26, a caseworker employed by the county, were in a car that crashed into a tree while heading east on Middlefield Road, according to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department.
A police report filed about this incident indicates confusion about who was driving. According to deputies, at first an uninvolved third party said he was driving the car, then Panageas said she was driving the car, and then Spina said he was driving the car.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Ultimately, Spina was charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated and failure to keep right.
On Jan. 12, he appeared in Roseboom Town Court on the charges, and now he plans to go to trial, according to his attorney, Richard Rothermel of Oneonta.
"We’re in the discovery phase now, and I’ve just received documents to review," Rothermel said Thursday morning. "It looks like we’re headed to trial."
Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl, who works closely with the Probation Department, has recused himself from the case.
Muehl said Thursday that Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride will prosecute Spina on the misdemeanor charges.
Spina was suspended without pay from his job Dec. 30 for 30 days, and Jean Seeber was appointed acting probation director by the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
The 30-day period will elapse Saturday.
According to Nancy Morton, the county’s personnel director, any employee who is suspended without pay automatically goes back on the payroll after 30 days unless a hearing has been held to review the disciplinary action.
However, Morton said, the law does not state that the employee is entitled to go back to work, and according to Laura Child, clerk of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, the county board has not put a time limit on Seeber’s tenure as acting probation director.
An official familiar with the case, who declined to be identified, said that no hearing has been held in Spina’s case.
A hearing had been scheduled for Thursday but was postponed until Feb. 17, the official said.
Section 75 of the state’s Civil Service Law, which governs the suspension of employees, states that if "such officer or employee is found guilty of the charges, the penalty or punishment may consist of a reprimand, a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars to be deducted from the salary or wages of such officer or employee, suspension without pay for a period not exceeding two months, demotion in grade and title, or dismissal from the service."
If acquitted, the law states, "He shall be restored to his position with full pay for the period of suspension less the amount of any unemployment-insurance benefits he may have received during such period.
Spina was hired in 2003, and his salary for 2006 is listed as $42,741 by the county Personnel Office.