Challenges sheriff’s allegation of illegal strike
A deputy sheriff has sued Putnam County, alleging it improperly withheld pay during a family crisis and unfairly accused him of colluding with officers who called in sick after the sheriff reduced road patrols.
The deputy, Kevin Osika, filed the lawsuit, which also names Sheriff Kevin McConville, in state court in Carmel on Sept. 16, a day after a disciplinary hearing.
In court documents, Osika — whose wife, Erin Lee Crowley, is the Republican candidate for the District 9 seat in the Putnam Legislature — maintains that he asked for a sick day and two days off in mid-February to assist his brother, who had been stricken with cancer and was arriving imminently for treatment in New York City. The deputy provided records showing his request had been approved by a supervisor.
In a complaint filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board, McConville said that Osika and eight other deputies, as well as the sergeant who approved Osika’s time off, staged or promoted an illegal strike on Feb. 17 to protest his decision to eliminate a sixth daytime patrol shift. He said the deputies began calling in sick within about two hours of his shift-elimination announcement.
Because of the shortage, the department had to pay nearly $11,000 in sick pay and overtime, McConville said.
On March 23, the same day he contacted the labor board, in a notification included in court documents, McConville informed Osika that he believed the deputy had participated in an unlawful strike and deserved to have twice his Feb. 17 pay withheld.
When Osika objected, McConville recalled that the deputy had worked three double shifts preceding and following the days he spent helping his brother, and on Feb. 17 failed to appear when two command officers stopped at his house. The fact that the sergeant who approved his time off had been “a participant in this illegal action” indicated collaboration, the sheriff said, noting that the nine other officers had accepted disciplinary penalties.
In the Sept. 16 court filing, Michael Sussman, Osika’s lawyer, asserted that McConville conceded at Osika’s disciplinary hearing the previous day that he “had no factual basis to conclude [Osika] engaged in any concerted action or strike.” Consequently, the sheriff’s decision represents “incivility and inhumaneness” and Osika’s pay should be restored, Sussman argued.
As of Wednesday (Sept. 28) neither the county nor McConville had responded in court to the lawsuit.