Deputies will receive annual raise of 2.5 percent
After three years of negotiations, the Putnam County Legislature will this month vote on a new five-year contract with the union that represents its sheriff’s deputies.
The three legislators who serve on the Personnel Committee voted unanimously on March 30 to send the proposed agreement to the full Legislature, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, April 7.
The contract, which would be effective from Jan. 1, 2017 (when the previous contract expired), through Dec. 31, 2022, includes an annual base salary increase of 2.5 percent.
“This has been a very long and arduous process, and there certainly have been some bumps in the road along the way, with many proposals and counterproposals exchanged,” said Legislator Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson), who chairs the committee.
“I believe this is a very fair contract with improved operational efficiencies in place and equitable benefits.”
During the committee meeting, which was held via audio webcast because of social-distancing regulations, Nacerino explained that County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Sheriff Robert Langley Jr., County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner and union President Daniel Hunsbeger executed an agreement on March 13 that outlined specific changes to the previous contract.
“Our Putnam County Sheriff’s Department is taking a big sigh of relief right now because they can take care of their families, and I’m happy to be part of taking care of them so that they can take care of us,” said Legislator Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown), who is on the committee.
Legislator Paul Jonke (R-Brewster), the third committee member, said the proposal also has no “hidden increases,” such as combining clothing allowances with salaries; changes shift scheduling in a way that should reduce overtime spending; and firms up a drug and alcohol testing policy.
It would cost the county an additional $865,090 this year and $886,717 next year.
“Tonight’s passage is significant and comes at a crucial time, especially with the COVID-19 outbreak looming and the enormous effect it has had on our health, safety and welfare,” Nacerino said. The members of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) are “at the front line,” she said.
Jonke said he supported the agreement but expressed frustration at the lengthy negotiations.
“It could have been a matter of weeks or months to agree upon the contract that we’re moving forward with,” he said.
“The leadership of the PBA harassed this body; I was personally attacked — I was personally followed by police officers,” Jonke charged. “I find it very difficult to believe that it took three years and the amount of intimidation that was attempted to get to this point. I’m a little disgusted, but this is a win for the county.”
He later clarified that his comments were not directed at the “rank-and-file” members of the union but at its leaders and their tactics, “which were below what we expect when it comes to law enforcement.
“I have great respect for our sheriff’s deputies,” said Jonke. “They do hard work; they do difficult work — it’s work I would never want to do. God bless them.”
Hunsberger did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Legislator Neal Sullivan (R-Mahopac) also spoke of “missteps by certain people and not of the Legislature or the administration” in trying to reach an agreement.
“If, at the beginning of the process, people were levelheaded and would have been willing to work with us and the administration, we could have got here a long time ago,” he said. “But instead, people chose a very different and bumpy road that caused a lot of unnecessary friction.”
Nacerino replied that, while there has been a lot of “strife,” the county and the union should focus on the future.
“We’re all in a better place,” she said. “With the coronavirus outbreak we understand a little better and a little clearer what the big picture is versus pettiness or remarks that were not called for.”
Other legislators also voiced support for ratifying the contract.
Legislator Joseph Castellano (R-Southeast) said that any time there are union negotiations, there must be give-and-take by both sides. “I’m glad everybody came to a reasonable conclusion,” he said.
“It’s good to see a good and fair contract in front of us that we’re able to vote on,” added Legislator Amy Sayegh (R-Mahopac Falls). “I know that since I’ve been on the Legislature [in 2018], that is something I have never seen.”