Sheriff admits reduction in road patrol
Putnam legislators last week criticized the results of the $45,000 investigation they commissioned 18 months ago on then-Sheriff Robert Langley’s overtime practices.
They also acknowledged that Langley’s successor, Kevin McConville, cut Sheriff Department road patrols from six to five — a reduction that county officials previously refused to confirm.
The discussion occurred June 23 in Carmel at the county Legislature’s Protective Services Committee, as legislators reviewed a 56-page summation of the overtime investigation by the Bonadio Group.
The Legislature’s eight Republicans voted in December 2020 to hire the firm at the behest of County Executive MaryEllen Odell, after repeatedly berating Langley, a Democrat, about overtime costs. Legislator Nancy Montgomery, a Democrat whose district covers Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, cast the lone “no” vote.
The examination considered overtime from 2018 through 2021, during Langley’s tenure, although legislators insisted he wasn’t targeted.
Bonadio produced at least three drafts before, in January, finalizing a version that Odell subsequently alleged contained “factual inaccuracies” and “faulty” conclusions. McConville, a Republican, was the new sheriff by then, having defeated Langley in November.
The report found that the Sheriff’s Department road patrol, with only “a lean workforce,” relies on deputy overtime hours to ensure basic round-the-clock policing. It said overtime “is to be expected,” given the small staff, equated more deputies with less overtime, and suggested that perhaps “resources are under-allocated to the road patrol.”
Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who chairs the committee, said that some of Bonadio’s statements “appear to be deficient, or speculative” and that “those deficiencies are real and impact the conclusions.” She contended the consultants “weren’t provided with the necessary tools.”
Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac said she is “disappointed” because Bonadio “really didn’t show what would’ve helped,” and Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac said the report “failed us,” although he added that it may still be useful.
McConville said the report “fails on a number of different levels.” As an example, he mentioned the absence of interviews with deputies.
However, Langley, citing information from Bonadio, said that Odell had “directed that members of the Police Benevolent Association [deputies’ union] were not to be interviewed.” He said he cooperated fully with Bonadio and that “all information provided” to the consultants “is accurate.”
The former sheriff also said that Bonadio discovered what he maintained “all along: The Sheriff Department road patrol is understaffed.”
“We wasted $45,000 in taxpayer money to tell us what we already knew,” Montgomery objected, calling the investigation “a political vendetta” against Langley.
That “is just your political game-playing,” Nacerino replied.
McConville pledged that with “better management” overtime will not exceed the budgeted amount. “When the overtime is appropriate and the need practical, reasonable, defensible and justifiable, we would come here and ask for additional overtime funds,” he said. “That’s where we stand.”
The sheriff also said he wants to redesign the road patrol system to “base it on the terrain and geography” and “make it much more effective to deploy personnel.” But he also said that “we may ask to increase” the overtime allocation “going forward.”
When Montgomery asked if he would restore the sixth patrol, he replied that “everything is on the table” in planning the 2023 budget.
“We can’t wait for next year’s budget. To not take care of that right now would be very irresponsible,” Montgomery responded. “My main concern is the health and safety of deputies,” who “wholeheartedly” concur with Bonadio, she said. “We need more staffing, more patrols.”
Langley said that “not having adequate staffing is creating violence in the workplace” — the streets deputies patrol and the buildings they enter — perhaps with no backup when they encounter danger. “They deserve better. They keep us safe. If we don’t keep them safe, who’s going to keep us, the residents, safe?”
Nacerino argued that legislators must remember “what’s sustainable for Putnam County. Is a sixth patrol absolutely necessary?”
Corrine Musella Pitt, a PBA representative, described a five-car road patrol as “inadequate. A sixth patrol is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity,” she said. Like Bonadio, she predicted that, with more deputies available, overtime would decrease.
“We have never been fully staffed,” she said. “This pattern of defunding cannot be allowed to continue for the 2023 budget,” or even “for the remainder of 2022.”