At its reorganizational meeting on Jan. 9, the Putnam County Legislature voted to award a $15,000 stipend to the Planning Department’s full-time transportation program manager, who already earns upward of $80,000. The stipend was for his “additional” work as a project manager for the Southeast/Danbury Rail Link Feasibility Study/Planning Study.

As I read the job description for the position, feasibility study project management is already required of the incumbent. I’m not aware that any other county employees are awarded stipends for attending evening meetings and working with project stakeholders.

The potential for the Southeast/Danbury rail project is tremendous — reducing car trips and expanding access to public transportation are good things, both sorely needed in Putnam. Our current transportation manager is neither a planner nor an engineer and was given the position after term-limiting out of a legislative seat, a patronage hire. Our current commissioner of planning also is neither a planner nor an engineer. She practiced family and public health law before her appointment. How are either of them qualified to manage the scope of this important public project?

The awarding of this stipend comes on the heels of all but one legislator raking the sheriff over the coals for deputy overtime pay incurred after the Legislature refused to increase the budget for road patrol. We have too few deputies on our roads because of their choice, and that’s not smart for the public or the deputies. Eight of the nine legislators, and the county executive, said they needed to scrutinize deputy pay for hours already worked to “protect the taxpayer.” Now we’re handing federal- and state-funded grant dollars to a patronage hire to do a job he’s already paid handsomely to do? I guess patronage trumps public safety.

Let’s just call this stipend what it is: A raise for a loyal member of Club Putnam. New year. Same waste, same corruption.

Kathleen Foley, Philipstown

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Type: Opinion

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