The Putnam Examiner

Sheriff Officials Furious at Leg. Over Delayed Votes

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Putnam County Sheriff Department officials are fuming after the county Legislature failed to move forward a memorandum of agreement with the sheriff ’s Patrol Benevolent Association and the establishment of a new union within the department leaving the two proposals in limbo.

During a committee meeting last Thursday, Legislature Chairwoman and Personnel Committee Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino asked if committee members Carl Albano or Paul Jonke wanted to make a motion to move the memorandum of agreement (MOA) or a new commissioned officers’ union forward, and both times the room fell silent. The non-actions came after lawmakers were in executive session for almost an hour.

As a result, both items will remain in committee going forward and led to harsh words from the second-in-command at the sheriff ’s office.

Undersheriff Paul Boscia and several other high-ranking sheriff officials were on hand for the meeting and weren’t happy. In a strong rebuke, Boscia told lawmakers their actions were a “slap in the face” and called the delays a “travesty.”

He then asked lawmakers, “What do we do, I’m just curious when everybody calls for the police to help, something that everybody always wants?” Nacerino responded, “I’m not going to comment on that because I don’t think we’re going to comingle that conversation with the non- action that was just taken.”

The proposed union is currently being reviewed by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which could make a decision whether the labor union should be created.

Boscia, in an interview afterward, ripped the lawmakers for holding up both the PBA contract and the formation of a commissioned officers union. He said even if the two resolutions are advanced to the full legislature and are still voted down, he at least wants residents and sheriff officials to know where certain lawmakers stand on the two issues.

When addressing the PBA contract, Boscia said both Sheriff Don Smith and County Executive MaryEllen Odell support the new deal. Now, the county Legislature has the final say, which seems to be a difficult sell for the nine lawmakers.

Boscia accused both the finance department and personnel department of “going rogue” because he believes their opinion differs from what the county executive wants. He said he knows both personnel director Paul Eldridge and finance commissioner William Carlin were against the contact and complained while the two department heads were part of the executive session, no one from the sheriff’s office was represented even though Boscia said he was originally invited.

As for the proposed commissioned officers’ union, Boscia noted that the four captains and one lieutenant currently don’t have the protection of a union. Those five sheriff officials want the same benefits they had before they were promoted to the current position, Boscia said.

“There’s really no incentive to become a boss,” Boscia said. “There really is no reason to be a captain here except personal satisfaction and doing the right thing.”

Sheriff Smith said in a statement he was very disappointed the personnel committee delayed both the proposed PBA agreement and the recognition of the commissioned officers’ union.

Smith urged lawmakers to discuss these topics out in the open where each one could explain whether they support or oppose the proposed contract and new union.

“The citizens of Putnam County and the hard-working men and women of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office deserve a fair airing of the issues and a public explanation from legislators of where each one stands on these issues,” Smith stated. “These matters will directly impact how well the Sheriff’s Office will be able to attract, retain and promote the highest quality personnel.”

But lawmakers contend the deal is bad for Putnam taxpayers.

Nacerino, who is in her second year leading the legislature, said the personnel committee didn’t move the MOA to a full vote because the “unanimous opinion of the Legislature that this MOA is unequivocally unsustainable, and we were unwilling to ask our taxpayers to shoulder the enormous burden that the agreement would have required of them.”

Nacerino said she hopes the two sides can go back to the negotiating table to craft a deal that is fair and equitable to both deputies and taxpayers. She stressed the entire legislature has the utmost respect for law enforcement and the sheriff ’s department despite the setback.

When addressing Boscia’s suggestion that Eldridge and Carlin went rogue, Nacerino called it “preposterous.”

“Let us not forget, we all work for the people of Putnam County,” Nacerino added. “These two gentlemen were simply doing their jobs by providing necessary information to the Legislature to enable us to make an informed decision. They are both outstanding long term employees of the County of Putnam.”

Nacerino said the legislature rebuffed the proposed commissioned officers’ union because to create another union for just five individuals “would be unduly onerous both monetarily and operationally.” She said the legislature would honor whatever decision is reached by PERB.

In stark contract to Nacerino, Odell, in an interview, confirmed her support for both the proposed PBA contract and the proposed union.

The county administration has been talking with the PBA leadership for about a year, Odell said, and she believes the proposed six-year deal is a fair compensation package.

“In Putnam County, we’re very responsible to law enforcement because they’re so important,” Odell said.

Odell said she looks forward to working with legislators and the sheriff to get the deal through and perhaps legislators just needed more time to review the details of the deal. When asked about Boscia’s comment accusing Eldridge and Carlin of defying the county executive administration, Odell said the comment was likely just a reaction to being taken by surprise by the outcome Thursday.

Regarding the commissioned officers’ union, Odell said she was “100 percent” in support of it, calling the five individuals incredible that have come through the ranks of the department.

Boscia said the four captains might be the best the department ever had, but if the commissioned officers’ union continues to be stymied, they might leave imminently.

Sheriff officials on hand for the meeting walked out in frustration as the meeting came to a close and were still steaming outside as lawmakers left the county office building.

“These guys are furious,” Boscia said. “We couldn’t fathom this.”

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