Click to listen to this post.
Executive, attorney blames Langley for lack of interviews
A now-concluded investigation of the Sheriff’s Department under Robert Langley Jr. continued to roil Putnam County governance last week, as officials claimed Langley forbade interviews with deputies — and a legislator argued that exactly the opposite happened.
The study began in December 2020 after the county Legislature voted 8-1 to spend $45,000 to hire the Bonadio consulting firm to examine Sheriff’s Department overtime. Bonadio produced at least three drafts for County Executive MaryEllen Odell before presenting a final, 56-page report that Odell said contains “factual inaccuracies” and “faulty” conclusions. She released the report June 8.
Bonadio found that, under Langley — who was defeated in November by a Republican challenger, Kevin McConville — the Sheriff’s Department road patrol had only “a lean workforce” and relied on overtime to ensure basic, round-the-clock policing. Under the circumstances, the report stated, overtime was to be expected. It equated more deputies with less overtime and suggested that perhaps “resources are under-allocated to the road patrol.”
After his election, McConville reduced the number of road patrols from six to five.
At its July 21 meeting, the Protective Services Committee discussed a June 28 memo from Odell and a July 15 memo from County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner; both alleged that Langley prevented Bonadio from interviewing deputies. Bumgarner wrote that Langley and then-Undersheriff Kevin Cheverko made the decision because they had not been involved in negotiations Bumgarner held with a lawyer for the Police Benevolent Association, the deputies’ union, to arrange the officers’ participation.
According to Bumgarner, when the interview process stalled, Odell determined that, because the Bonadio research already had consumed “a significant period of time,” the consultants could continue “without interviewing deputies.”
In her June 28 memo, Odell told Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who chairs the Protective Services Committee, that she wanted “to correct statements” made earlier by Langley and Legislator Nancy Montgomery of Philipstown, the only Democrat on the Legislature, who in 2020 cast the “nay” vote against the investigation.
Odell maintained that she “fought vehemently” for the deputies to be interviewed in hopes that “factual information previously provided to Bonadio could be corrected.” She did not elaborate.
Addressing the committee on June 23, Langley denied forbidding deputies from talking to Bonadio. Instead, he said that Bonadio had stated that “Odell’s office directed that members of the Police Benevolent Association were not to be interviewed.”
Similarly, Montgomery asserted at the June 23 meeting that “the county executive canceled those interviews.”
Andrew Quinn, the PBA attorney, said Tuesday (July 26) that “information set forth in Ms. Bumgarner’s memo is accurate” regarding their common efforts to draft protocols for interviewing deputies. “Subsequently,” he added, “no interviews were scheduled or conducted. No one ordered or instructed any PBA member not to be interviewed. They [interviews] simply did not happen. We are unaware of the reason why or who, if anyone, directed that they not be conducted.”
Bonadio representatives involved in the study could not be reached this week; one has apparently left the firm and another was on vacation.
Montgomery again defended Langley on July 21 and pointed out that despite expressed concerns “the county executive and county attorney never show up to talk about this stuff.” (Bumgarner was on vacation.) Montgomery likewise suggested that the contradictory statements from Odell and Langley about not interviewing deputies echoed the classic “he said/she said” argument. “Somebody is lying,” she said. She recalled that legislators “didn’t see any correspondence that said the sheriff would not allow the deputies to be interviewed.”
Montgomery said Odell and Nacerino ignored her repeated memos seeking copies of the administration’s communications with Bonadio. Those materials “would answer a lot of our questions,” she said, adding that it is public information. “Why wouldn’t you,” in chairing the committee, “follow up on those memos requesting information?” she asked Nacerino.
Nacerino replied that “they weren’t forthcoming. Whether you sent it [a request] or I sent it, obviously they weren’t forthcoming.” She then declined to engage with Montgomery further. “We’re here to discuss one thing: the statement of the county attorney,” she said.