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Residents Ask Lawmakers To Remove Social Services Commissioner

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Residents in Oswego County are officially calling for Department of Social Service Commissioner Fran Lanigan’s job.

Jackie Siver and Colleen Scott each approached the Oswego County Legislature Thursday to present petitions asking to have Lanigan removed from her position in response to the death of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell.

Erin died during the early morning hours of Aug. 30 from injuries she sustained in her Palermo home Aug. 29. The Onondaga County Medical Examiner ruled Erin’s death a homicide; the result of asphyxia with sexual trauma listed as a contributing factor.

Erin’s step-brother, 27-year-old Alan Jones was charged with second-degree murder in her death. Her father, Lindsey Maxwell, and step-mother, Lynn Maxwell, were also arrested and each charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

The petition started to circulate around the county last month. It reads:

“To The Legislature of Oswego County,
“We the residents of Oswego County, want to inform you that, we no longer feel, that Frances Lanigan, is fulfilling her duties as Commissioner of the Oswego County Department of Social Services. Instead of her saying that her department did not handle the Erin Maxwell case effectively, she continues to state that DSS, did everything they could to ensure the safety and well being of Erin. This is contrary to overwhelming evidence that has been released to the public by credible witnesses.
“We the undersigned, are demanding her resignation or removal immediately.”

Siver explained how she came to know Erin and how much she was affected by the conditions of the child’s home two years ago.

“I was horrified by the things I saw. … I saw nothing but filth,” she said.

Siver said that Erin made a lasting impression on her and that she was devastated when she heard of her death. She said that she is looking for accountability from DSS.

“Tell me that what I saw two years ago what not what they found her in two months ago,” she said. “Somebody tell me that it is okay to dig in the garbage for food. … In this instance, we didn’t do enough.”

Siver said that she was asked to help put together Erin’s Law in an effort to protect other children from the conditions that Erin lived in.

“It’s a start,” she said. “It’s a place to jump off. … We need to be accountable. Everybody needs to be.

“When my leaders don’t show accountability, I’m going to ask for new leaders,” Siver added. “If we didn’t do what was right, then we failed. There are thousands of Erin Maxwells out there. … We need to save them.”

Siver presented petitions with 277 signatures to Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann. Scott later presented another stack of petitions.

“We need to make sure this never happens to another child,” Scott said. “When the DSS report came out, I was looking for answers. I found none.”

Scott said while she doesn’t hold DSS responsible for Erin’s death, she is unhappy with Lanigan’s response to the incident.

“Fran Lanigan has never once said something went wrong. … She said they did everything right,” Scott said. “No you did not.”

Scott said that she believes the case workers who were involved with Erin in the past should be named and disciplined. She added that DSS should undergo a complete overhaul.

“(DSS workers) are public employees,” Scott said. “Our tax dollars pay their salaries.”

After the session, Leemann said that the petitions will be reviewed by the county’s legal office.

“I can’t tell you what we will do about it because I don’t know yet,” Leemann said. “I do know that we won’t ignore them.”

The county is also waiting for the results of the state’s review of the Maxwell case. When complete, the county will make that document public, as well.