No Drama Over Sheriff Fund Transfers

But questions arise about Putnam road patrols

Sheriff’s Department internal fund transfers with no fiscal impact sailed through two Putnam County Legislature committees this month but raised questions about road patrols.

The endorsements by the Personnel Committee on March 8 and Audit Committee on Monday (March 28) clear the way for approvals from the entire Legislature, which meets Tuesday (April 5).

Legislators and Sheriff Kevin McConville explained March 28 that the transfers involve reassigning a patrol officer as a school resource officer (SRO) and placing a position in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, not in an operations unit as previously listed.

At both sessions, Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, wondered about the potential impact on road patrols.

“Did we go from six to five [patrols]?” asked Montgomery, the sole Democrat on the nine-member Legislature, on Monday.

McConville said the patrol officer needed to be reassigned as an SRO to cover for a school resource officer dealing with a medical condition.

The switch, effective through Dec. 31, requires moving $10,280 from the road patrol line to the SRO line, according to committee documents. “Most, if not all, is reimbursable with the school system,” McConville told legislators. He did not identify the district.

Capt. Michael Grossi, who leads the Sheriff’s Department Civil Bureau, said on Wednesday (March 30) that the department is interviewing candidates for the Patrol Division.

“There has been no reduction in the currently budgeted patrols,” he said. When asked how many patrols there are and the number of deputies assigned to each, Grossi said that, because of concerns for deputies’ safety, the department “will never disclose the deployment level of personnel.” However, he added, “residents, business owners and visitors should rest assured that sufficient patrols are always available.”

 At the March 28 meeting, McConville said that a second transfer of $127,102 reflects the recategorizing of the operations job as a Bureau of Criminal Investigation position.

The Personnel Committee considered the fund transfers on March 8. Montgomery and Legislator William Gouldman of Putnam Valley asked for more information but no Sheriff’s Department official was present to supply it.

Personnel Committee members suggested that McConville could provide answers 20 days later at the Audit Committee meeting.

“There needs to be an explanation to at least bring us up to speed as to why these changes are being made” by McConville, Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, a Personnel Committee member, acknowledged March 8. “But he runs his department as he sees fit and will make those changes to make his department more effective and efficient, as he sees it. And he is in charge.”

“But we do have oversight,” Gouldman observed.

Montgomery reminded the Personnel Committee of the grilling then-Sheriff Robert Langley underwent when requesting authorization for similar internal fund transfers. In the November election, McConville, a Republican, defeated Langley, a Democrat (who like McConville and Montgomery lives in Philipstown).

During Langley’s tenure “very minor changes would get scrutiny from each and every member of this Legislature,” Montgomery said. “And it was never said that it was always the sheriff’s purview, that it’s his department, and he can do what he wants.”

Legislator Paul Jonke of Southeast, the head of the Personnel Committee, asserted that in Langley’s first year of office, he, too, “got a great deal of latitude from this Legislature. I want to give the same courtesy to the new sheriff.”

On Tuesday (March 29), Montgomery said the SRO “position swap is still not very clear” and that uncertainties also continue regarding road patrols. “It is my understanding that we’ve gone from six to five patrols,” she said.

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