Oswego Co. Legislators call for DSS Commissioner's dismissal

Fran Lanigan / file photo

Oswego County Legislators Doug Malone and Arthur Gearsbeck formally called for the ouster of Department of Social Services Commissioner Fran Lanigan Wednesday. They made the motion at a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee which was going over the findings of a state report that found county Child Protective Services workers did a poor job in the handling of the Erin Maxwell case.

11-year-old Erin Maxwell was found at her home in Palermo hanging from a rope. Her stepbrother has been charged with her murder while her father and stepmother are accused of endangering the welfare of a child. State Police say conditions inside the Maxwell home were "deplorable". They claimed Maxwell was often locked in her caged-in bedroom without food. They said the house was full of animals, garbage and feces and had an overwhelming odor.

Prior to her death, county DSS workers were called to the home three times to investigate complaints about her living conditions yet allowed the child to remain in the house.

The Health and Human Services Committee is looking for ways to improve the handling of child abuse complaints, but Legislators Malone and Gearsbeck said they should remove Commissioner Lanigan first. Malone pointed out that Lanigan told legislators she would voluntarily resign if the state report found wrongdoing, but Lanigan said the report made no such finding and refused to resign. At that point Malone and Gearsbeck called for her firing. The vote was tabled.

A handful of Oswego County residents attended the meeting and called for Lanigan's firing. They included Jackie Siver, whose complaint in 2006 sparked an investigation into Erin Maxwell's living environment.