OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Residents in Oswego County are officially calling for Department of Social Service Commissioner Fran LaniganÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 ErinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death a homicide; the result of asphyxia with sexual trauma listed as a contributing factor.
ErinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTo The Legislature of Oswego County,
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe 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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe the undersigned, are demanding her resignation or removal immediately.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Siver explained how she came to know Erin and how much she was affected by the conditions of the childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s home two years ago.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI was horrified by the things I saw. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I saw nothing but filth,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â 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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTell me that what I saw two years ago what not what they found her in two months ago,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSomebody tell me that it is okay to dig in the garbage for food. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ In this instance, we didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t do enough.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Siver said that she was asked to help put together ErinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Law in an effort to protect other children from the conditions that Erin lived in.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a start,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a place to jump off. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ We need to be accountable. Everybody needs to be.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen my leaders donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t show accountability, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m going to ask for new leaders,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Siver added. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf we didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t do what was right, then we failed. There are thousands of Erin Maxwells out there. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ We need to save them.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Siver presented petitions with 277 signatures to Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann. Scott later presented another stack of petitions.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe need to make sure this never happens to another child,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Scott said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen the DSS report came out, I was looking for answers. I found none.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Scott said while she doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hold DSS responsible for ErinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death, she is unhappy with LaniganÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s response to the incident.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFran Lanigan has never once said something went wrong. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ She said they did everything right,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Scott said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNo you did not.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ(DSS workers) are public employees,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Scott said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOur tax dollars pay their salaries.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
After the session, Leemann said that the petitions will be reviewed by the countyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s legal office.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t tell you what we will do about it because I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know yet,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Leemann said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI do know that we wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t ignore them.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The county is also waiting for the results of the stateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s review of the Maxwell case. When complete, the county will make that document public, as well.