NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- After serving the town of North Salem as a court clerk for nearly a decade, Trish Rubino found herself out of work at the start of the new year.
Rubino, a Danbury resident who had been a clerk since April 2006, was not kept on by North Salem's new town justices, Stephen Bobolia and John Aronian. The pair succeeded long-time justices Ralph Macklin and John Johnston, whose terms ended on Dec. 31.
Although Macklin warned Rubino about the prospect of her not being kept on during a mid-December meeting, she told Daily Voice that an email was sent to her by the town on Dec. 22 announcing her termination.
"I just said, 'What?'" Rubino recalled as her reaction once she got the email.
Court clerks are appointed at the discretion of their judges; no specific reason was given to Rubino for not being retained. The judges retained Rubino's fellow clerk, MaryAnn Ambrosino, while opting for a replacement for her.
Had Rubino been allowed to continue working through May, she would have been eligible for early retirement, a status that would have afforded her retiree insurance. Rubino, who is battling cancer, now has to use COBRA, which is more expensive because former employees have to pay the full cost of their insurance premiums.
Rubino has a form of cancer called multiple myeloma, which she has battled on and off since she was first diagnosed with it in 2007. Although Rubino went into remission, the cancer came back around last June in an aggressive form. Coupled with a change in treatment, Rubino wound up taking more time off from work than before; previously, she would be capable of returning to work the day following treatment. Additionally, Rubino had to be hospitalized multiple times.
Rubino also said that she talked with Supervisor Warren Lucas about her situation, recalling that he offered to reach out to the incoming judges to see if a meeting with her could be arranged. Days later, Lucas said that the two did not want to meet, Rubino said.
Lucas did not want to be quoted, citing federal law governing healthcare privacy and because the situation is a personnel matter. Bobolia and Aronian also did not want to be quoted.
A source familiar with the situation provided some insight into how the decision was made not to keep Rubino. The source, who requested anonymity for this story due to fear of causing town officials to potentially face an undesirable legal situation, said that there were not enough chances for the judges, prior to being elected, to see Rubino perform in her job. As examples, the source said that she was absent from a number of justice-court nights and that interaction with clerks behind the scenes was not allowed without the company of a current judge.
Additionally, the source claimed that, based on talk around town and feedback from colleagues, it was uncertain as to whether Rubino would continue working.
However, the decision not to keep Rubino was made without a full understanding of her health and retirement situations, the source said. By the time more information was learned, the source added, the person selected to succeed Rubino had already given notice of resignation to the previous employer.
"She's suffered terribly through this," the source said about Rubino.