Police: Sunmount employee falsified accusations to get paid leave

Jesse Fletcher (Photo provided — New York State Police)

TUPPER LAKE — State Police say a Tupper Lake woman working at Sunmount made false anonymous abuse allegations against herself and her co-workers to get put on paid administrative leave for an extended period of time.

On Feb. 6 a joint investigation determined that Jesse L. Fletcher, 46, had made several anonymous calls accusing herself and others at a Sunmount unit she supervised with abusing the mentally disabled people they are paid to care for.

Troop B Public Information Officer Fleishman said the investigation team — which included Sunmount, Justice Center, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney David Hayes and Troop B Investigator Tim Durkee — conducted interviews with consumers and staff, and performed medical checks on the client.

“Nothing added up. We could not determine that the client had in fact been abused. The allegations proved to be unfounded,” Fleishman said. “It was determined that Mrs. Fletcher had made these anonymous calls to the tip line alleging this abuse so that she could be placed on paid administrative leave.”

Fletcher was charged with three counts of third-degree falsely reporting an incident involving a vulnerable adult, and two counts of providing a false written statement, all misdemeanors. She was released on appearance tickets and was scheduled to appear in Tupper Lake village court Monday.

Fleishman also said the false accusations created public alarm to investigate incidents involving vulnerable adults at the facility.

“(The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) takes very seriously allegations of false reporting. We require all employees to report instances of neglect or abuse to the Justice Center so that they can be fully investigated and appropriate disciplinary actions can be taken,” OPWDD Director of Communications, Jennifer O’Sullivan, wrote in an email. “False allegations endanger the safety and security of the people we support and divert resources that could be used to investigate actual cases of neglect or abuse.”

Fleishman said though the calls Fletcher made were anonymous, the Justice Center’s tip line is recorded, and witnesses were able to identify Fletcher’s voice.

Retired Sunmount employee Dave McMahon said he was concerned by the way investigators were able to track Fletcher down.

“It just shows you how misleading and crooked this Justice Center is because nothing that you report to them anonymously is anonymous,” McMahon said. “This is probably why a lot more people aren’t involved in this stuff.”

The Justice Center’s communications director, Christine Buttigieg, declined to comment as there is an open and active investigation going on.

Fleishman said Troop B investigates around eight to 10 allegations abuse — both staff to consumers and consumer to staff — a month with OPWDD, which oversees Sunmount.

“Most often they are unfounded,” Fleishman said.

Sunmount residents do not generally face the same criminal consequences as staff do when they make false accusations.

“They have tried to bring charges against some of the clients, but pretty much they get thrown away because, you know, they’re not competent to stand trial,” McMahon said.

Fleishman said the State Police are taking a closer look at false anonymous accusations now.