But Putnam legislators approve oversight rule
Two months after rejecting a request by Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. to transfer $121,000 to cover road patrol overtime, the Putnam County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday (Feb. 4) requiring department heads to get approval before exceeding their overtime budgets.
Langley addressed the Legislature’s Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Jan. 23 before its members voted to forward the policy to the full Legislature.
The sheriff told committee members that he is juggling a reduced overtime budget and a road patrol hampered by unfilled positions and injuries. The budget approved for road patrol overtime fell from $600,000 in 2018 to $537,000 in 2019 and $520,000 in 2020. Langley requested $762,000 for 2020.
The department is down six deputies, Langley said, including one who was hit by a car in December while directing traffic in Mahopac and another who was slashed in January while responding to a domestic disturbance in Putnam Valley, the day before the Rules Committee meeting.
“The Legislature has a responsibility to the taxpayers and part of that responsibility is to budget realistically,” Langley told the committee, citing “uncontrolled situations that take place out in the streets of Putnam County.”
Under the new policy, requests to exceed “non-mandatory” overtime must be provided in writing to the Legislature with “detailed, complete justification.”
The Legislature also has asked Finance Commissioner William Carlin to provide monthly reports on overtime spending.
The Sheriff’s Department is likely the only department to be affected by the change, said Legislator Neal Sullivan (R-Carmel), who chairs the Rules Committee.
“I don’t think we really had another other department, exceed their budget without coming to us for a request,” he said.
Langley, a first-term Democrat who defeated the long-time incumbent Republican, Don Smith, in 2017, on Dec. 3 faced a barrage of criticism from Republican legislators over a request to transfer $121,000 from equipment and administrative budget accounts to cover road patrol overtime already paid to deputies.
The request, which drew accusations of poor planning, was denied 7-1. Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown) cast the dissenting vote.
The rejection of Langley’s request appeared to be a sudden change of approach for the Republican legislators, who for years routinely approved such transfers. In 2018, the Legislature gave the OK for Langley to move at least $192,000, and in 2012 and 2014 it approved requests from Smith to move $200,000 or more.
At their Dec. 18 meeting, legislators approved transferring $49,439 from machine maintenance to road patrol overtime. The balance of Langley’s $121,000 request was taken care of through routine year-end budget amendments approved during the same meeting.
Legislator Carl Albano (R-Carmel), a member of the Rules Committee, said last month that sheriff’s overtime should be “addressed at the budget process” and any overages would be subject to approval before the money is spent.
“When there are surprises, they should be discussed and come before us ahead of time,” he said. “It would be irresponsible to say spend it and let us know later. It comes down to planning.”
At the Rules Committee’s January meeting, Montgomery warned of “unintended consequences” from the policy. She also criticized a process that she claims omitted formal input from department heads, including inviting them to publicly address any anticipated impact from the policy.
Sullivan said he was “able to contact them directly,” including while attending department head meetings. “If they had any problems, I would have heard about it,” he said.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell has chastised Montgomery in the past when she attempted to interact with county departments, saying all such inquiries must be directed through her office.