Putnam County Hires New Consumer Affairs Head

Position now part-time, could save $60K annually

By Holly Toal

The Putnam County legislature has approved the hiring of a new director of the department of consumer affairs, following the resignation in February of Jean Noel after she pleaded guilty to embezzlement of county funds.

The legislators appointed Michael Budzinski to the post, which will now be part-time, a move expected to save the county about $60,000 a year.

County Executive MaryEllen Odell recommended Budzinski, a longtime health department employee from Patterson, to lead the agency, officially called the Department of Consumer Affairs/Weights and Measures/Trades Licensing and Registration. Budzinski, who earns $110,000 as  director of engineering in the health department’s environmental health bureau, will add the duties of consumer affairs to his current role for an additional $20,000 annually.

The full-time consumer affairs position was budgeted for $80,000 to $85,000. Personnel Director Paul Eldridge said that under the county executive’s proposal, Budzinski would spend about 20 to 25 percent of his time in the consumer affairs office and thus earn about a quarter of that salary.

Noel, who lives in Kent, resigned after the New York State Comptroller’s Office discovered she had stolen $4,575 in cash payments made to her office.

Eldridge, who said he has known Budzinski since he started with the county 34 years ago, called him a “top-notch” individual. “I’m very pleased with this particular selection,” he told lawmakers at a prior Personnel Committee meeting.

With the county administration looking to save money, Eldridge explained that he was asked to look into the pool of county employees to see if there was anyone qualified and interested in leading the consumer affairs department.

“Budzinski was one of the first individuals that came to mind,” he said. “He’s very excited about it. He’s qualified fully for the position.”

Budzinski has worked for the health department since 1982 after graduating from Clarkson University with a bachelor of science degree in civil environmental engineering. He has been a New York State-licensed professional engineer since 1987. He served as assistant public health engineer from 1982 to 1985, as public health engineer from 1986 to 1988, as senior public health engineer from 1989 to 1997, and as director of engineering since 1998.

The appointment is provisional since the position requires passage of the civil service exam, which Budzinski will need to take. The part-time contract ends on Dec. 31, when legislators could consider hiring a full-time director if the arrangement isn’t working out.

Eldridge said Budzinski will still be expected to maintain the same workload in the health department, and that Budzinski understands he may have to put in time after regular working hours to fulfill his new role.

Eldridge added that he is confident a part-time director is sufficient for the agency. He said that in the wake of the department shakeup earlier this year, the employees have shown they can keep the department running smoothly.

“They’ve really stepped up,” he said.

The only dissenting vote against the appointment came from Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls) who said she opposed making the position part-time. “It devalues the department,” she said. “It opens the door for people to cheat consumers.”

LoBue cited the discovery of Noel’s theft earlier this year as a reason to enforce more stringent controls. “We need more oversight, not less,” she said. “I do not believe we are saving any money. We’re going in the wrong direction.”

2 thoughts on “Putnam County Hires New Consumer Affairs Head

  1. Excuse my lapse into vulgarity but what a total load of crap this is. The truth is that these plum County jobs are only available to members of the GOP club that’s been running Putnam all these many years. If they were interested in getting top-notch people for the positions, they would advertise the jobs with salaries of less than $40K per year with no benefits. I guarantee they would get hundreds of applications from seriously qualified people who are dying for full-time work. There are more than 94 million unemployed people in this country, many of whom are looking for jobs. They would kill to get a position like this, even at a greatly reduced salary.

    But Odell and her cronies have zero interest in saving money for the taxpayers. What this is all about is giving their loyal soldier Budzinski a nice reward for his service. They have it all figured out, how to keep it in the family, so to speak. What qualifies Budzinski, who worked in the public health bureaucracy, to work in Consumer Affairs, other than he’s a member of the Club?

    You know who would be great for the job? In a word — me. That’s right, I would make a great consumer affairs director. It’s an area I know a great deal about and have worked in that field for decades running a plumbing business. But I will never even get a chance to apply and neither will anyone else because Odell and her cronies aren’t interested in merit or who can do the best job. The only people they want are those who will kiss the ring and swear eternal allegiance to their GOP masters.

    By the way, there is another great county job that’s up for grabs and that is Libby Pataki’s old position as head of the tourism agency. Now that one also suits me to a T and you know what else? There is not one person out there who is as qualified as I am for that job and I can prove it should the opportunity arise. They did advertise that one and so I sent in my wonderful application knowing full well that it probably ended up in the nearest trash can. But that’s a whole other story that I will write about another time.

    Bottom line: if you are not a member of the Club, if you are one of the little people who pays the taxes that support all those six-figure salaries, and if you have the slightest bit of integrity or work ethic, don’t waste your time trying to get a job with Putnam County.

    P.S. As usual, I would like to issue the following disclaimer for all the readers who will write to say that I am a supporter of the Democrats who’s just out to bash the Repubs: I am a lifelong, small “c” conservative Republican, registered in Putnam Valley.

  2. Step by step the Odell/Walker administration has dismantled any semblance of an administrative structure that would elicit any confidence from serious developers that Putnam County presents an environment for cutting edge, 21st-century projects. Are we surprised when the county relies on inexperienced, uninformed part-timers to oversee a major department protecting both small business and patrons, e.g., consumer affairs; when a bureau is delegated to a political chum, e.g., tourism, shrouded by an investigation from the AG’s office; when critical departments of planning and transportation responsible for funding remain unmanned by credentialed personnel but headed by inexperienced hold-overs from previous administration and back-scratchers; when the IDA is starved for funds, unable to assure prospective developers of backing; when personnel are diverted from critical road projects, e.g., highway to work on the $2 million, money pit The Lodge at Tilly Foster Farm in the twisted attempt to turn a unique tourism gem from a serene setting for children into a contorted idea of a so-called educational institution to benefit adults.

    Shame on BOCES, DEP and WAC for being complicit in this fraudulent veneer to hoodwink the public. Are we surprised that the only ventures booming in Putnam County are massage parlors, nail salons and gas stations, loads of them since residents are leaving this cesspool in droves, even the hockey team in Brewster is leaving; Putnam County is losing population. Look no further for the cause than the inhabitants of the third floor at 40 Gleneida.