Firing upheld for longtime worker at animal control |

Firing upheld for longtime worker at animal control

A civil service commission hearing last month did not overturn the county’s decision to fire a 9-year-veteran of El Dorado County Animal Control for taking a dead bear cub from a county freezer.

Ruth Cecchettini-Hughes, 56, was fired after the El Dorado County Health Department conducted an internal investigation regarding the incident.

“What I can tell you is that Ruth Hughes is not currently an employee of El Dorado County,” said Kathryn Libicki, the county’s director of human resources. “Generally I don’t make comments on personnel matters especially things that are subject to a closed hearing. Personnel matters are confidential.”

Ruth Hughes, who has Native-American ancestry, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that she took the dead bear not for monetary gain, but to save its spirit.

Regardless, she lost a job she cherished and is now, along with and her husband, Rick Hughes, 41, being prosecuted by El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office for taking the carcass from an unlocked Animal Control freezer.

Both are charged with two misdemeanors: unlawful possession of a bear without a bear license tag and unlawfully possessing a bear and parts thereof. If found guilty of the crimes, the Hugheses could be fined up to $1,000 and/or be sentenced to six months in jail for each misdemeanor.

The couple’s requested jury trial is scheduled May 4 in El Dorado County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m.

On Dec. 2 animal control picked up the 80-to 100-pound cub from the side of Emerald Bay Road near Taylor Creek after it had been hit and killed by a car.

The cub was discovered missing from the freezer after Ann Bryant, founder and executive director of the BEAR League, called and asked Animal Control Officer Douglas Petri to look and find out what type of bear had died. He didn’t find the cub.

Bryant wanted to know if the bear was one of the animals that had been plundering homes in Spring Creek Tract area since Labor Day.

A week later Fish and Game Warden Dave Bezzone ticketed the Hugheses after he received an anonymous tip that indicated they had taken the dead cub.

The cub was snatched a few days before a Sparks meat processing company was scheduled to pick it up.

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