McConville also says he will crack down on overtime
The agenda for the Tuesday (April 19) meeting of a Putnam County legislative committee included the topic of Sheriff’s Department road patrols, but the legislators and Sheriff Kevin McConville barely touched it.
Instead, when the Protective Services Committee convened in Carmel, McConville delivered a 12-minute statement underscoring his authority to run the department and justifying a crackdown on previous overtime practices that, he asserted, condoned spending $11,520 or more each week on “unfunded positions.”
McConville, a Republican who lives in Cold Spring, took office in January after defeating another Philipstown resident, then-Sheriff Robert Langley Jr., a Democrat, in the November election.
After McConville began a reorganization of the department, Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, in March asked about claims that the number of road patrols had been cut from six to five. She pressed for information, and Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who chairs the Protective Services Committee, asked McConville to discuss the issue.
But when the committee met, McConville avoided specifics. “Contrary to past practices, I will not address any specifics regarding patrol operations, including the number or location of patrol posts, other than to assure everyone that patrols are assigned to provide effective and responsible public safety services in the towns that comprise Putnam County,” he said.
Montgomery persistently sought more details, eliciting reprimands from the committee members, whom she in turn accused of ignoring an agenda item. The Legislature’s lone Democrat, she often clashes with her Republican colleagues. Ultimately, she was allowed to pose a question: How many road patrols existed at the end of 2021, and how many exist now?
McConville declined to say, citing “concern for safety and security for our members as well as for other law enforcement agencies.”
Where’s the Report?
Because of its concerns about overtime and other spending at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department under then-Sheriff Robert Langley Jr., the Legislature 18 months ago agreed to pay an accounting firm, Bonadio & Co., $45,000 to study the issue.
The county finance commissioner, Bill Carlin, noted at the time that the concerns did not originate with Langley. He reminded legislators that “we’ve been going back and forth” on agency overtime since at least the tenure of Sheriff Robert Thoubboron, who left office in 2001. “We never seem to get past the arguing and bickering about what is right, so we thought we’d bring in an independent analysis,” he said.
In a 2018 examination of overtime among Putnam County employees by The Current, seven of the top 10 earners were sheriff’s deputies. The others were two corrections officers and the highway crew chief. The nine officers filed for an average of 10 to 18 extra hours per week.
In November, The Current filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain a copy of the Bonadio conclusions; the county said on Dec. 6 it was “not in possession” of the report. On Dec. 8, the paper filed a second FOIL request for the report and/or any drafts. This was denied on Jan. 6 because, the county said, the final report had not yet been produced and that any drafts were exempt from disclosure.
Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, said she asked County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Bonadio to see the report or any drafts but was rebuffed.
In his statement, the sheriff emphasized that “deployment of personnel, assignment duties and responsibilities to address public safety issues is a fundamental responsibility charged to me along with the fiscal duty and obligation to ensure expenditures are properly supported within the finite budgetary constraints that the Sheriff’s Office must operate [under].”
He said scheduling changes and staffing modifications were driven solely by “efficiency” and to avoid unnecessary overtime. He expressed confidence that “reasonable people” would “conclude I have acted on high principle and extensive law enforcement knowledge and experience.”
McConville told the legislators he had been “astonished to find that first-line supervisors were operating as the sole and absolute authority regarding the approval of all time-off requests as well as the sole authorization and final approval of overtime coverages, without input, direction or oversight of command management. Let that sink in for a minute.”
He said overtime will be used for traffic enforcement, special details focusing on criminal activity, finding missing persons and other urgent needs. Overtime was warranted, he said when an armed robbery occurred at a Garrison gas station in February and in “extensive and laborious” child-pornography investigations.
Legislators who had repeatedly questioned Langley’s autonomy and decisions praised McConville and endorsed his independence.
Sheriff’s Department affairs are “under the sheriff’s discretion, which we really don’t have any purview over, to dictate what his discretion is,” and whether legislators agree with him “is not for us to say,” Nacerino said. “Some of the gross negligence there has to be corrected, as well.”