KINGSTON, N.Y. — The chairman of a key committee of the Ulster County Legislature wants the Ulster County Executive’s Office to explain to lawmakers the steps administration officials took to address sexual harassment complaints it received from individuals who say they were sexually harassed by former Human Rights Commissioner David Drimer.
In a letter dated Feb. 1, Laws and Rules and Government Services Committee Chairman Jason Kovacs requested that Metzger “or a representative of your office with full knowledge of the events that transpired” attend the committee’s Feb. 8 committee meeting to explain how the county handled complaints as well as changes the administration wants to make to the county’s sexual harassment policy.
“Updating or revising, in whole or in part, Ulster County’s sexual harassment policy may be the prudent action to take. However, before such action is taken, I believe it is important to hear directly from your office as to which policies or protocols were followed in relation to the allegations against the former Human Rights Commissioner,” wrote Kovacs, R-town of Ulster.
Kovacs also requested that the administration provide to the committee the number of sexual harassment claims filed since Jan. 1, 2021, and how many of those claims were substantiated, as well as whether there are any allegations currently under review. He also requested memos prepared by the county attorney regarding the allegations as well as an explanation of the county’s “standard operating procedure” when a county employee or official is accused of sexual harassment.
Assistant Deputy County Executive Evan Menist said Monday someone from the executive’s office will “absolutely” attend the Feb. 8 committee meeting.
“The county executive welcomes the opportunity to talk to the Legislature about some of her proposed changes to the sexual harassment policy,” Menist said, noting that “policy is ultimately the Legislature’s purview.”
Kovacs’ request follows the revelation that Metzger and former County Executive Johanna Contreras were aware of complaints against Drimer dating back to late 2022.
A series of heavily redacted emails obtained by the Freeman under the state’s Freedom of Information Law suggest that administration officials indicated they would look into the allegations, which were made by a former employee of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County, where Drimer served as executive director, but then stonewalled the woman and whistleblower who brought the claims to the executive’s office in December of 2022.
On Jan. 19, just days after the Freeman report, Metzger called for changes to the county’s sexual harassment policy to give her the explicit jurisdiction to act when allegations of sexual harassment are made against members of the county’s volunteer boards or commissions.
The administration in May claimed that because Drimer was a legislative appointee it had no authority to investigate the claims.
In a statement to the Freeman at the time, Metzger said the allegations against Drimer “concerned his behavior in a private organization and were brought by a third party seeking his removal from a volunteer position on a County Commission.
“The fact is, I have no legal authority to remove a legislative appointment. Only the appointing authority could do that, which in this case was the Legislative Minority Leader at the time. My office communicated all of the information we had about this issue to the Minority Leader. I also have no legal authority to investigate allegations into a private organization. Our office did what we could do, which was to provide information on actions the complainant could take, including legal action or filing a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission,” she wrote.
Former Minority Leader Ken Ronk, who is now the Shawangunk town supervisor, had previously said he was made aware of what he called “rumors” of sexual harassment allegations against Drimer but that he took no steps to investigate the claims because they were “nothing other than rumors and innuendo.”
When those allegations finally became public — in the form of an Aug. 1 lawsuit filed against Drimer — the commissioner resigned. That lawsuit is still pending.
Drimer was removed as executive director of the Ulster County Jewish Federation in late 2023.