CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – Chemung County, County Executive Christopher Moss, and Chemung County Director of Civil Defense Vincent Azzarelli have been named in a second gender discrimination lawsuit being brought by a current county employee.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by Planning Department employee Kristin Griffiths on Oct. 25, 2021, and the lawsuit is expected to be reviewed this month by the Chemung County Legislature.

Griffiths claims that after County Executive Moss took office she was demoted to the Planning Department in 2020 “simply because she was a woman.”

Griffiths began her career with Chemung County in 1995 as the Director of Public Information and Records before moving to Emergency Planner/Safety Coordinator in the Office of Fire and Emergency Management. She later served as the Deputy Director-Administration in the Office of Fire and Emergency Management and in 2019 was promoted to the de-facto Director, according to the notice of claim.

According to court documents Griffiths claims she was “targeted” and “discriminated against” by the county, Moss, and Azzarelli.

“(Griffiths) was demoted, berated, belittled, and dismissed by Respondents Christopher Moss and Vincent Azzarelli despite her expertise, simply because she was a woman.”

Notice of Claim

The claim also alleges continued retaliation by county officials and notes that Griffiths filed a Workplace Violence Complaint.

Griffiths released a statement to 18 News through her attorney on Thursday.

“I spent more than twenty years proudly working for Chemung County and I was always treated the same way that my male counterparts were treated until Christopher Moss took office. Based on my experience and how I observed others being treated, women are not seen, valued, heard, respected, supported or treated equally by the Moss Administration.”

Kristin Griffiths

Griffiths’ attorney Megan Goddard of Goddard Law PLLC released a corresponding statement in support of her client.

“Sadly, as citizens of New York have seen all too clearly this last year, some public officials use their power and positions to subject female employees to a discriminatory and hostile work environment. Kristin Griffiths tirelessly worked for Chemung County for over two decades with no issue, but alleges that she was inexplicably set aside as soon as Christopher Moss came into power. She alleges that the Moss administration disregarded her years of Chemung County institutional knowledge, largely centered around emergency management, even as the Covid-19 Pandemic was unfolding, because of her gender, and that they retaliated against her when she reported discrimination.”

Megan Goddard, Esq.

Chemung County Attorney Hyder Hussain tells 18 News that the county will be filing its response in the next couple of weeks.

“The county takes these allegations very seriously and we are an equal opportunity employer,” said Hussain.

Hussain says Griffiths was recently recognized when the county received accreditation from the New York Commissioner for Emergency Management. Griffiths was not mentioned in a press release sent by the County Executive’s Office or included in the picture sent regarding the accreditation, though the release acknowledged others played a “key role in this achievement.”

Courtesy Chemung County Executive’s Office

Hussain says County Executive Moss “has the authority reorganized the county operations,” following his election.

“It’s unfortunate that this employee feels that she was singled out based on her gender and the county will defend this lawsuit and its officials on it,” said Hussain.

Griffiths is seeking no less than $1.5 million in damages for attorneys’ fees, damages emotional and psychological stress, punitive and compensatory damages, and any other damages permitted by law.

Goddard also represented Nicolette Wagoner, a former Chemung County employee who in March 2021 filed a similar lawsuit claiming she was targeted and discriminated against on the basis of gender.

Wagoner worked as a Planning Commissioner and Director of the Elmira-Chemung Transportation Council starting in August 2017.

Wagoner claimed she dealt with “overt sexual comments” and that she was undermined by an administration that created a “fraternal work environment.”

Wagoner’s complaint alleged “similar tactics” were used towards other female employees in the Chemung County government.

Last year Hussain confirmed with 18 News that sexual harassment training is mandatory for county employees and that Azzarelli had completed the most recent course at the time.

Goddard tells 18 News that Wagoner’s case against the county remains active at this time.