Agency’s COVID-19 protocols also criticized
Putnam County Legislature committee members last week renewed a long-running assault on Sheriff Robert Langley’s overtime policies but by a series of 2-to-1 votes approved fund transfers totaling $215,684 for six months of overtime and related charges.
Although the committee voted on each transfer individually, it first bundled them together for discussion, much of it a blast at Langley that included disparaging his 2020 policy of sending home, for quarantine, deputies exposed to COVID-19. County health and other officials maintained last year that essential employees exposed to the virus were required to keep working while wearing masks, practicing social distancing and taking similar steps to “quarantine” on the job.
The votes came during the Sept. 16 Protective Services Committee session in Carmel. The transfer proposals await further review by the Legislature’s Personnel Committee on Monday (Sept. 27).
Six transfers involve moving money from accounts for the county jail, part of the Sheriff’s Department, to other accounts to fund road patrol overtime and insurance; a seventh would free money from a general county subcontingency account.
Langley, a Democrat who lives in Philipstown, seeks election in November to a second, 4-year term, but faces a challenge from Republican Kevin McConville, a former chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police who also lives in Philipstown.
The county Legislature consists of eight Republicans and one Democrat, Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley.
While six of the seven transfers move money from one Sheriff’s Department account to another, Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who chairs the Protective Services Committee, described them as a “sensitive subject matter. It does warrant a very frank discussion.” She faulted Langley for not filing acceptable paperwork — such as a basic explanation — for the repetitive overtime, which, she argued, “could have been anticipated. We have these volumes of dollars and we don’t know what justified the overtime.”
In Sheriff’s Department memos provided to legislators before the Sept. 16 meeting, Capt. James Greenough of the corrections division explained that in March the department was 11 deputies short because two were on extended leave, two had been called up for military duty, two recruits were in the training academy, three had retired and two were out for other reasons. He provided the same information in memos referring to the April, May, June, July and August overtime requests.
Undersheriff Kevin Cheverko offered similar details in addressing the committee and noted that deputies’ pay recently increased, compounding the financial crunch.
Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac, a committee member, criticized Langley for sending Cheverko “to justify overspending. Why can he not do something to manage this overtime better?”
He also revived the issue of the sheriff’s COVID-19 quarantine practices, which reflected federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice.
All county departments “have to follow the COVID policy of the county,” Sullivan declared. “For him to go on his own and say, ‘I’m going to follow CDC guidelines,’ ” meant that “we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars” on COVID leave. “The sheriff thinks he can run the department any way he wants,” Sullivan added. “That’s not correct.”
Montgomery pointed out that Philipstown deals with heavy tourism and deserves assistance. “I hope we have more patrols” and the county hires more deputies, she said. “I’m concerned about public safety. The sheriff did what he could in his budget in the beginning of the year to try to fund the overtime to get the coverage he needed. We denied him that.”
“The onus is on the sheriff to demonstrate the need,” Nacerino responded.
However, she and Legislator Carl Albano of Carmel, the third committee member, voted to approve the fund transfers. Sullivan voted “no.”