Justice drops charge against highway chief


HILLSDALE–The second degree harassment charge against Hillsdale Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs was dismissed by the Town Court February 14.

Sheriff’s Office Senior Investigator William Foster and Deputy Jeffrey Hofstetter charged Mr. Briggs, 41, of Hillsdale with the violation August 13 based on a complaint signed by a Highway Department employee at the time, who alleged that Mr. Briggs made sexually suggestive statements to him, causing him to be annoyed and alarmed.

Mr. Briggs was represented by Copake Attorney Jeanne E. Mettler, who filed a motion for dismissal in December on the grounds that the complaint “was insufficient on its face and did not provide reasonable cause to believe that [Mr.] Briggs had committed the offense charged.”

The case was being heard by Hillsdale Justice Russ Immarigeon. Town Justice Juliette Crill recused herself, as did Columbia County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino.

Greene County Assistant District Attorney Sarah Leggio, who was prosecuting the case, did not oppose Ms. Mettler’s motion, and on February 10 wrote to the court saying that the prosecution would “not be moving forward with any further prosecution,” and requested that the court “dismiss this matter in its entirety.”

Hillsdale Town Supervisor Art Baer and the Town Board cast a vote of no confidence in Mr. Briggs back in August, even before he was charged, and called for his resignation. Mr. Baer told The Columbia Paper Wednesday that he and board “were disappointed that the matter did not go all the way through the judicial process.” Mr. Baer said that he encourages the public to seek all the information available on the case from the Sheriff’s Office through the Freedom of Information Law so people can judge for themselves. “The Town Board acted totally appropriately to protect the interests of the town,” said the supervisor.

The person who made the complaint against Mr. Briggs no longer works at the Highway Department but continues to work for the town in another capacity, Mr. Baer said.

Mr. Briggs never had any intention of resigning, and did not have to, according to applicable Public Officer’s Law. He is an elected official and could not be removed or suspended from his job by the Town Board. He remained on the job with pay.

Back in September, Ms. Mettler told The Columbia Paper that her client had a long history of public service, that the accusation was proof of nothing and they were preparing for trial.

“It is our belief that the charge should never have been filed. We are grateful that the charge has been dismissed in its entirety and that our client has been vindicated,” Ms. Mettler said earlier this week.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com.

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