Scuccimarra calls it an “unsustainable burden”
By Holly Crocco
The Putnam County Legislature on July 7 unanimously vetoed a proposed six-year contract with its sheriff’s deputies, calling it “fiscally unsustainable” and sending it back to the drawing board for renegotiation.
Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown), said she voted “no” because the contract includes changes to several longstanding, negotiated policies, as well as a compensation schedule that will become an “unsustainable burden” to the taxpayers and could be seen as unfair to other county employees.
“This decision is not an easy one, but I cannot support this proposal as submitted,” she said. “While we value and support the work of the sheriff’s department, our responsibility is to all of our residents and employees.”
The county’s prior contract with the Police Benevolent Association, which represents the deputies, expired in December.
The legislature’s Personnel Committee discussed the proposed agreement on March 23 but took no action since all three members of the committee rejected it. However, Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) introduced the contract during the July 7 meeting, saying the committee wanted to give other lawmakers the opportunity to consider it.
“Since the situation [in negotiations] has basically remained status quo for the last three months, the Personnel Committee felt it would be appropriate to move it to the floor for a vote,” she explained.
According to Nacerino, the agreement was negotiated by County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Sheriff Donald Smith and the PBA president, each of whom encouraged the legislators to approve it.
The proposed agreement for the 80-member PBA calls for raises of 2 percent annually, which could rise to 3 and 3.5 percent through 2022, depending on inflation, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Journal News. If approved, deputy sheriff salaries would range from $47,000 to $91,000 annually, compared to $55,000 to $101,000 for the same position in Westchester County.
The agreement also eliminates a requirement that deputies be trained as first responders, which was negotiated in 1997 in exchange for lowering the amount of time an officer had to work to receive a 50 percent pension to 20 from 25 years. The 20-year pension requirement remains in the proposal.
Bill Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) said he was disappointed to see that the requirement that sheriff’s deputies be trained in first aid, CPR, basic life support and other first-responder training had been removed.
“Our community needs more training, not less training,” he said. “For the health and safety of our residents, this is why I will not be supporting this contract as written.”
Nacerino noted that the lack of a contract is not a deterrent for future deputies, noting that “hundreds of hopefuls” sat through a police exam to be considered for the sheriff’s department even while the contract is being negotiated.
Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls) said that whatever contract is approved would set a precedent for other unions in county government.
While no sheriff’s department employees addressed the Legislature during the July 7 meeting, Undersheriff Paul Boscia expressed frustration after lawmakers took no action during the March 23 Personnel Committee meeting.
“It’s sort of a travesty – it’s a slap in the face,” he said. “I’m not very happy, and I really don’t know what’s going on.”