Working for Onondaga County


Civil Service regulations required that the department head hire one of the top three people “reachable” on the list.  Since the list didn’t come out until about six months after the first applications went in, many people had voluntarily taken themselves off the list; they’d gotten other jobs, moved and left no forwarding address, or whatever.  This would shrink the list somewhat.

Let us say that the department head had an employee who was working in a temporary slot but he wanted to keep her.  For example, Dave Elleman told me that he had an employee who was a terrible test-taker.   Elleman, with the cooperation of Gusty from Personnel, would create temporary positions for her.  When the test was given for her position, she would take it, do poorly, not be reachable on the list, and theoretically lose her job to a qualified candidate.

In fact, Elleman and Gusty would create a new temporary job for her and she would continue her employment in the Comptroller’s Office.  This went on for years and years.  Was she an outstanding employee and the Civil Service system didn’t work for her because of her test-taking problem, or was she an incompetent employee who was buying her job with contributions to the Republican Party?  We worked in different units and I didn’t know.

One way for a department head to get the employee he wanted was to wait.  Positions had to be filled in ninety days, so if the employer waited a couple months to interview candidates on the list, there was a good chance that all the high-ranking applicants would have taken other jobs and the employer could reach the loser he wanted to hire for political reasons.  Another technique for getting past the high-rankers on the list was to do negative interviews, i.e., to do the interview but to make it so nasty that the candidate would refuse the position.

The point and purpose of Civil Service is to get the best qualified employees for government jobs.  The taxpayers are paying the salary; they’re supposed to get their money’s worth.  In fact, by manipulating the Civil Service system, the county department heads were guaranteeing that losers and dorkheads would get Civil Service jobs based on political contributions and favoritism.  The next time you wonder why the government employee with whom you are dealing is such an idiot, ask yourself if the person might have bought their job from the reigning political party.

Every morning around 10:00 a.m. the departmental bosses would meet for coffee in the cafeteria in the Public Safety Building across the street from the courthouse.  I would watch the head of Personnel, Ned Gusty, leave the office to attend. 

While I worked in Personnel, I took the test for Typist II and placed first on the list of about 260 people.  I interviewed for, and accepted, a position in the District Attorney’s Office.

In the District Attorney’s Office, I worked in the Grand Jury Unit, coding new criminal cases onto the computer and typing subpoenas for witnesses.  At one point I had a meltdown and went to the unit boss, Norman Mordue, and explained to him about my history of hospitalization for depression, my fiancé’s death, and my need for some time off.  Mordue—as all attorneys do—made notes on a legal pad while we talked.  I took a few days off and went back to work feeling better.

The District Attorney was Jon Holcombe and he was a son of a bitch.  He was merciless in his prosecution of people charged with crimes.  He was no more merciful in his dealings with his staff.  On one occasion, he called a meeting of the entire staff.  When one young attorney failed to show up on time, Holcombe made the entire staff, which was large, sit and wait.  When the attorney arrived some ten minutes late, Holcombe publicly shamed him and told him how many minutes of employee-time he had just wasted.  The kid didn’t waste the time; Holcombe chose to waste it.

There weren’t enough secretaries to do the work so, instead of going to Ned Gusty and getting approval to hire more secretaries—we were not important—Holcombe would regularly reassign tasks so that the workload got moved around.  Every Friday would find a different secretary in tears because she couldn’t do all the work that was demanded of her.

And every morning around 10:00 a.m. the departmental bosses would meet for coffee in the cafeteria in the Public Safety Building across the street from the courthouse.  I would watch the District Attorney, Jon Holcombe, leave the office to attend.

One morning in May of 1976 I woke up, turned off the alarm clock, and went back to sleep.  I could not bring myself to go to work in Jon Holcombe’s office another day.  When the phone rang, I knew it would be the office calling and I ignored it.  I got dressed, ate a good breakfast, then went into the office, typed my resignation, left it in the typewriter, picked up my African violet and coffee mug and walked out, thereby ending my career as a Civil Servant. 

The Republican Party held two fund raising events each year—a cocktail party in the winter and a clambake in the summer.  These were the events to which Civil Servants had an allotment of how many tickets they were to buy.  The clambake occurred a few weeks after I resigned.  There were two versions of what happened there.

What I heard was that one of the secretaries from the District Attorney’s Office got drunk.  She was young, sweet and demure—her typical attire was a gray skirt, pink sweater and string of pearls.  In her drunkenness, she accepted a ride home from Jon Holcombe.  The clambake was held in the county adjacent to Onondaga.  Holcombe raped her once in his car in Madison County and again in Onondaga County.  She resigned from her job the next morning and refused to file a rape complaint.  She was well-liked by the D.A.’s staff and they were protective of her.  That’s the story I heard from sources inside the D.A.’s Office.

What was reported in the newspaper was that Holcombe resigned from office after pleading guilty to one count of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.  The plea was accepted in settlement of an indictment that included two counts of misdemeanor sexual abuse.   By pleading to a misdemeanor, Holcombe kept his license to practice law.

So that was Onondaga County—a place where the Republican Party got a son-of-a-bitch and future rapist elected District Attorney.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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4 Responses to Working for Onondaga County

  1. gold price says:

    The United States Attorney’s Office is proud to represent the federal law enforcement interests of the people of New Jersey and the country. The office is responsible for the prosecution of federal criminal statutes for all of New Jersey, from acts of terrorism to public corruption, white-collar crime, organized crime and gang activities, internet-related crimes, drug importation through New Jersey ports, and many other criminal acts. The Office also is charged, through its Civil Division, with defending agencies of the United States, enforcing regulatory agencies’ authority, and recovering funds from violators of U.S. criminal, regulatory, and civil laws.

  2. Samuel King says:

    This office prosecutes federal criminal cases in the Western District of North Carolina. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office defends the United States in civil suits brought against it, and brings civil cases to recover money for taxpayers, preserve the environment, and ensure citizen’s civil rights.

  3. piracetam says:

    The Reno Branch Office of the United States Attorney’s Office is comprised of three Divisions: criminal, civil and support. The Reno Branch handles a variety of cases involving OCDETF cases and non-OCDETF narcotics cases, firearm offenses, illegal reentries, fraud and tax evasion. In addition, the Reno Branch is responsible for all cases within the District of Nevada involving Indian Country. This includes violence, sexual abuse, drugs and theft occurring on Indian Country, to include juveniles. Further, the majority of land management cases also fall within the Northern part of Nevada and involve grazing rights, land use, Native American claims, ARPA, ALF/ELF, water rights, environmental issues, wild horses and State’s rights.

  4. idebenone says:

    In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division prosecutes violations of the criminal civil rights laws, including laws prohibiting hate crimes and the use of unreasonable force by those acting under color of law. Please click here to see a list of law enforcement agencies that handle and may investigate complaints regarding criminal civil rights violations.

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