Baitsholts again passed over for Berne DCO

— Photo from Cheryl Baitsholts

Berne’s former dog-control officer, Cheryl Baitsholts, plays with two dogs. Baitsholts was recently rejected by the Berne Town Board as a candidate for the position that she was suddenly and illegally removed from without obvious cause in 2020. 

BERNE — The Berne Town Board rejected a motion, 3-to-2, made last week by Councilmember Joel Willsey, the board’s lone Democrat, to hire former dog-control officer Cheryl Baitsholts back into her position, which has been empty since her controversial replacement resigned in April. 

Willsey’s motion to hire Baitsholts, the only candidate who applied for the position, was supported by Bonnie Conklin, a Conservative, but defeated by the three Republicans on the board. 

Supervisor Sean Lyons declined to discuss during the meeting why he was against Baitsholts’s reappointment.

Baitsholts could not immediately be reached for comment.

Baitsholts, who lives in Rensselaerville and has her own kennel, had been Berne’s dog-control officer for almost 19 years when the then-newly minted GOP-backed majority town board voted at the town’s 2020 reorganizational meeting to replace her with Jodi Jansen, a Berne resident with no known animal control experience, without providing a clear reason. 

Following widespread public outcry, the board eventually stated that the town handbook calls for Berne residents to take priority over non-residents in town positions. Despite this, the decision to remove Baitsholts was a violation of Civil Service Law, though she has not taken legal action against the town. 

“Dog control officers are in the competitive class and therefore covered under Civil Service Law Section 75,” Deputy Personnel Director for the Albany County Department of Civil Service David Walker told The Enterprise last year.  

Jansen resigned in April this year, the day before a dog was found shot in the town, forcing the Albany County Sheriff’s Office to solicit help from Baitsholts, who has expressed significant frustration over her ouster and Jansen’s performance in the position. 

Lyons told The Enterprise that Jansen was “unable to fulfill the duties” of the position due to work that brought him out of town. Not long before Jansen had resigned, the board sought candidates for his position but Jansen was kept on.

Now lacking a dog-control officer, the town is exploring the idea of signing a contract with the neighboring town of Knox, which would give that town’s dog-control officer jurisdiction in Berne, though Lyons said last week that the proposal is not yet ready for public consideration. 

Lyons also said that he’s working with New York State Animal Health Inspector Elizabeth Holmes on questions about coverage in the town.

“I’m still in discussions with … the state on how to best move forward and how to work our dog-license law,” Lyons said. “I have not yet gotten all that information back from the State Department of Agriculture.”

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