Long-time animal control employee fired
After an internal investigation, a longtime animal control officer has been fired because she took a dead bear from an unlocked county storage freezer.
Ruth Lavern Cecchettini-Hughes, an employee at El Dorado County Animal Control for nine years, is in the process of appealing the county’s decision to a civil service commission.
“I did it on my own,” Hughes said. “The fact that I worked for the county was not a consideration when I did it. At this point I don’t care (if you print this in the paper). I lost a job that meant the world to me. I did the job for nine years to the best of my ability and I’ve lost it. I don’t even want to go out to the store I’m so embarrassed. I made a stupid mistake, end of story.”
El Dorado County Animal Control picked the carcass off Emerald Bay Road near Taylor Creek on Dec. 2. It apparently had been hit and killed by a passing motorist.
Hughes, who has some Native-American ancestry, explained in January that she took the carcass not for monetary gain, but to save its spirit.
She said she and her husband planned to keep the bear’s skin in their home, but after she saw newspaper articles reporting it missing, she got nervous and dumped the carcass.
Several days after El Dorado Animal Control Officer Daniel Petri reported the animal missing from the office’s outdoor freezer, portions of it were found on the banks of the South Upper Truckee River and its hide on State Route 89 near Grass Lake Road.
El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office alleges that Hughes and her husband, Rick Martin Hughes, took the animal. Each has been charged with two Fish and Game misdemeanors.
The charges allege unlawful possession of a bear without a bear licensing tag and unlawful possession of wildlife off-season. If found guilty, the couple could be fined up to $1,000 and/or face six months in jail for each misdemeanor. The charges are still pending.
Animal control is part of the El Dorado County Health Department.
Gayle Erbe-Hamlin, director of the department, and Kathryn Libicki, the county’s director of human resources, said they could not comment on the case because it is a personnel issue.
Regarding Hughes’ termination, Libicki said the civil service commission ruling regarding Hughes’ employment will be final.
Ruth Hughes said the appeal may be in April. At the hearing she expects to be represented by her union.
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