Panel OKs $102,500 for Legal Bills

Putnam also moves to settle case alleging racial prejudice and false arrest

A Putnam County legislative committee on Monday (Nov. 22) backed a $102,500 transfer to cover legal costs following a surge in labor complaints this year, a separate need for independent counsel for Sheriff Robert Langley, and ongoing litigation.

The unanimous vote by the Rules Committee, meeting in Carmel, moves the transfer request by County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner to the full, nine-member Legislature for consideration in December. 

Committee members also forwarded a proposed agreement to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Poughkeepsie man against the Sheriff’s Department. Louis Rosado alleged that deputies motivated by racial prejudice arrested and assaulted him during a 2019 traffic stop on the Taconic State Parkway. 

Bumgarner told the committee that she needs the money to pay outstanding legal bills by Dec. 31. She blamed the predicament on unexpected developments, including on-the-job friction that followed the return of county employees to their departments after working remotely because of COVID-19. 

“We were inundated with workplace violence complaints, harassment complaints,” she said. “It was crazy. Nobody could get along with anyone.” 

She said she referred the complaints to outside lawyers for investigations. According to a memo she wrote, as of Nov. 10 the county had spent $128,092 addressing the situations.

Moreover, she said Monday, about $27,000 in expenses were incurred as the county handled questions involving County Executive MaryEllen Odell and legislators as well as Sheriff Robert Langley, with whom Odell and the Republican-majority Legislature often clashed. (Langley, a Democrat, this month lost his reelection bid to the Republican candidate, Kevin McConville.) 

On “several separate issues,” Bumgarner said, legal ethics compelled her to supply an outside lawyer to advise Langley because she or her staff had already conferred with Odell or the Legislature and “there could have potentially been a conflict” if she had assisted Langley, too. She also acknowledged that, at least in part, the $27,000 for legal help for Langley reflected “a failure of disclosure of documents by my office.” 

Other causes of the cash crunch include litigation over a county Highway Department project and a personal-injury claim, together accounting for about $23,093, she reported. 

The county’s 2021 budget provided $232,600 for the budget line now running short. The 2022 budget allocates $300,000. 

Discussing the Rosado case, Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac, who chairs the Rules Committee, said agreeing to a settlement “is not an easy decision for us to make” but they did so “to protect the taxpayers from any future liability. It’s an economic decision. We in no way are saying that the behavior of the Sheriff’s Department was something OK. We actually do not feel that way at all.”

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