Montgomery says now not the time for new hires

During a contentious meeting held June 2 via audio-conference, the Putnam County Legislature approved a budget transfer that will allow the county executive to hire a deputy.

After a 25-minute debate, legislators voted 8-1 to move $20,500 to the personnel line in the county executive’s budget. This will allow Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell to appoint Thomas Feighery, a project manager in the Highway Department, as a part-time deputy county executive for the remainder of the year.

Thomas Feighery
Thomas Feighery

The position has been vacant since October 2017, when Bruce Walker left for a federal job. Odell has said keeping the position vacant saved the county $485,000.

Feighery will keep his position at the Highway Department and next year will earn a combined salary of $116,200.

“The reinstatement of this position is necessary given the health care crisis and the economic crisis, which is a grave reality,” said Legislator Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson). “No one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic would cripple our federal, state and local economy, our budgets, our health and welfare.”

She called Feighery a “uniquely qualified individual” who will “readily be able to interface with the Economic Development Council and local businesses during this unprecedented time.”

Legislator Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown), who cast the lone “no” vote, called the action “a rubber stamp on a patronage hire,” and said the lawmakers should be looking for ways to prevent layoffs and furloughs that may be necessary due to the economic crisis.

“Instead of having workers as our first priority, we are falling over ourselves to expand executive staff,” she said. “Now is the time for hiring freezes and austerity measures at every level until we can stabilize county finances. We need to take care of our rank-and-file employees, retaining as many as we can before we expand any county management and executive positions.”

Before being cut off by what sounded like a male legislator telling Montgomery to “shut up,” and while being accused of “grandstanding,” the lawmaker called the appointment of a county employee to a second job “par for the course” in the county. 

“We have multiple executive staff collecting multiple salaries for multiple positions, but the Legislature has looked the other way from this for years,” she said.

Nacerino reminded her colleagues that it is not under the purview of the Legislature to approve who the county executive selects as her deputy; the lawmakers were only approving the fund transfer that will allow her to fill the position. This is the case for all elected officials who hire people to serve under them, she said.

“We do not have the undersheriff’s resume, we do not have the captain’s resume, we do not have the chief of staff’s resume,” said Nacerino.

Legislator Joseph Castellano (R-Brewster), said the county saves money in employee benefits and pension expenditures by having employees in dual roles.

“We have an individual here who can job-share, wear two different hats, and do a great job,” he said. “So there’s a great savings in this opportunity that we have for this year. Next year the county executive could fill the position herself and not even come to the Legislature for approval.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Crocco is a freelance journalist who contributes coverage of the Putnam County legislature. Location: Carmel. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Putnam County politics

2 replies on “Putnam OKs Funds for Deputy Executive”

  1. A million thank-yous to Legislator Nancy Montgomery for always voting the right way, even in the face of insulting opposition from her colleagues elsewhere on the board. She is 100 percent correct that in an era of furloughing, layoffs and general financial upheaval, such egregious featherbedding courtesy of Executive Odell is the epitome of indifference to her constituency. (Of course, it’s bad during any season, and I don’t know how our friends elsewhere in Putnam County can vote such corrupt representatives into county offices.)

    This is not about Republican vs. Democrat but about common sense and good governance, and the legislator who told Nancy Montgomery to “shut up,” likely from the comfortable anonymity of his Zoom-enabled dark screen, should be identified and censured.

  2. More county cronyism, big surprise. Nothing personal against the appointee, but how can one realistically expect to do this job, manage projects for the highway department and act as general manager for his bar and maintain focus doing all three things? Why are issues like this never discussed in advance? How about some surveys and accountability, and see what we, the citizens in this county, think about the things going on?

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