Posted: Aug. 4, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

Ten months after Lynda R. Maloney and Maria A. Rendina became the most famous library aides in New Castle County, the politically well-known sisters quit their jobs Monday as executive assistants, saying they were forced out by a vindictive administration.

Maloney and Rendina submitted a joint letter of resignation to County Executive Thomas P. Gordon, a two-term Democrat, and Chief Administrative Officer Sherry L. Freebery, walking away from $63,000-a-year jobs within months of their anticipated retirement dates.

The letter detailed what the sisters said was deliberate mistreatment on the job. It said they both had suffered medical problems and declared they intended to have their day in court.

"As you both know, each of us desperately need our jobs to live. Lynda is a widow living alone, and Maria is single. But our mental and physical health is precarious, and we can hold on no longer. After 10 months, we have reached the end of our rope," they wrote.

"You have forced us to quit, but we will fight you in court for our pensions and other relief."

Freebery said there was nothing to the charges. "I don't see anything in here that is accurate," she said. "I think they have visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads."

The messy double-resignation continues the turmoil that began in the New Castle County government last year with a ranging federal investigation that brought Maloney and Rendina to public attention as part of its early fallout.

Maloney is the widow of Thomas C. Maloney, a Wilmington Democratic ex-mayor who died in 2000, and the stage-managing diva of the First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, an annual charity roast for Delaware's political and corporate elite. She would be eligible in March for a county pension with 15 years of service.

Rendina would have 30 years of combined state and county service in about six months.

Maloney and Rendina were called to testify before a federal grand jury in October and hired their own attorney instead of accepting a county-designated lawyer. They were transferred from their desk jobs to the Bear Public Library, where they shelved books. Although county officials said the assignments weren't punitive, but based on staffing needs, the sisters were returned to desk jobs three weeks later after their situation became public.

Since then they say they have been subjected to a "deteriorating and worsening job environment [that] has been deliberately caused by both of you as punishment because we testified truthfully before the federal grand jury," according to their letter.

"Your mistreatment is retaliation designed to hurt us for appearing before the federal grand jury and to send a message to other loyal New Castle County workers, dependent on their jobs to survive in the world, that if they cooperate with the law, they will be unmercifully crushed and injured," they wrote.

Freebery denied there was any mistreatment or retaliation. She said Maloney and Rendina were transferred from the library to locations they requested and were handled with "kid gloves" -- to a point where there were complaints of preferential treatment from other executive assistants.

She said Gordon even agreed to have the administration contribute "thousands of dollars" at Maloney's request toward an $85,000 bronze statue of her late husband, scheduled to be placed on the Market Street Mall in Wilmington next month.

Freebery disputed one of the sisters' claims in particular -- that the library work left them needing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, injury to the wrist area from repetitive movement. She said both were denied workers' compensation and called their reported injuries "slightly incredulous."

Freebery noted that Maloney and Rendina were two of approximately 200 county employees -- out of a work force of 1,600 people -- who received federal subpoenas either for themselves or their files. "They have singled themselves out," she said.

The sisters haven't endured entirely alone. At the gridiron this year, Freebery took a lot of the heat. One of the highlights was a song to the tune of "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," with local performer Kelleye Martin singing as though she were Freebery:

Some call me a pistol.

I sparkle like a crystal

Even though CAO's not Number One.

Now would you find it scary

To work in a library?

And I swear it was fair

When I sent those broads to Bear.

Freebery said the investigation and its offshoots have taken their toll on her, too. "If they think they're under medical stress because they were witnesses, they ought to be in my shoes," she said. "Who can I sue?"


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