Putnam County lawmakers discuss sheriff’s department issues
Members of two Putnam County legislative committees cracked down on the sheriff’s department last week over a pair of contentious issues.
The Protective Services Committee has announced that the county will be getting rid of its two maritime patrol boats from the legislature that cut funding for the service in the 2021 budget.
The other question, pursued by the rules committee, concerned the impact on the county’s workers’ compensation fund if a moonlighting assistant was injured while working security or traffic control for private companies.
Last November, the legislature removed maritime patrol from the current year’s budget. Two boats had sailed on Mahopac Lake and the Hudson River.
Protective Services President Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) said the budget process made it clear that the lake and river were properly monitored.
âThe Town of Carmel added funding to its budget and assured us that it was adequately covered for the boating season,â she said.
Nacerino added that several agencies patrol the Hudson River, including state police, coast guard and many volunteer agencies. She said the sheriff’s maritime patrol on both bodies of water was an unnecessary duplication of services.
Despite the cuts, the Sheriff’s Department submitted budget requests for the tuning of the boats, a move that Nacerino described as an act of blatant defiance.
âThese requests were ultimately denied,â Nacerino said. “It was our hope and expectation that there would be respect and cooperation from the Sheriff’s Department.”
The two boats in question are a Boston Whaler for Lake Mahopac, a 21-foot vessel built in 1988 and acquired by the county in 2018 with the ability to search in the dark and handle aquatic emergencies, and the Boston Whaler Enforcer. 24-footer for the Hudson, which was acquired in 2013.
County Director MaryEllen Odell wrote a letter to leaders of Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess and Orange counties last Thursday about their maritime patrol units on the Hudson.
County lawmaker Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown), the only Democrat on the board, responded that the committee failed to include her letter to Odell in the meeting’s package of documents, even though she did. had asked. Montgomery read his letter to Odell requesting documentation of mutual aid agreements with neighboring counties and the Coast Guard.
“Since it was your initiative and the eight members of the legislature who voted to fund the Putnam County Sheriff’s Marine Unit, I’m the ‘no,’ I guess your office has established programs for it. mutual aid with Rockland, Westchester, Dutchess and Orange Counties, as well as the United States Coast Guard, before funding the Putnam County Maritime Patrol Unit on the Hudson, “Montgomery said.
âWe really have never seen the hard data of the responses and appeals of those who are sent down the river,â she added.
“We are not here to go back and debate the issue at hand,” Nacerino replied.
She reiterated that Odell demanded that both ships be returned and that the maritime licenses be terminated. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which originally provided the boats, is due to pick up the ships on July 1. All county equipment must be removed and state owned equipment and accessories returned to the state.
Undeclared work by the police is a high risk
The Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee raised the issue of moonlighting by sheriff’s deputies for private companies.
Committee Chairman Neal Sullivan (R-Carmel) introduced the topic as a âdiscussion of interestâ. Putnam County Risk Director Mat Bruno, who spoke to lawmakers, said if an MP is cleared to work on traffic control for a private company and is injured, the county is responsible.
âIf the injury is significant, the county has to pay significant expenses for medical treatment,â Bruno told the committee. âCounty workers compensation reimbursements do not start until $ 1.5 million in claims are filed. Until then, the county is on the hook for all this money coming out of taxpayer pockets. I recommend the county not to engage in private traffic control activities.
Lawmaker Carl Albano (R-Carmel) has suggested that traffic control overseen by the sheriff’s department is a better scenario than having it done by lay people.
âIf a company could hire them at an hourly rate and cover them on their workers’ compensation, then there would be no liability link with the county,â Albano said.
“I don’t see why this has to be under our coverage and workers’ compensation.”
Bruno mentioned that if MPs work alone and get injured, they cannot claim workers’ compensation if they are not in the line of duty.
Montgomery asked about the impact on county facilities such as Tilly Foster Farm, which uses the sheriff’s department for crowd and traffic control.
“The Cold Spring fireworks alert the sheriff, as do the vaccination sites which are private organizations and law enforcement is in control,” she said. “I’m curious, how can we avoid doing it in the case of public safety, which is a responsibility that we must assume? “
Nacerino said there are many private organizations that include retired police officers trained in traffic control to do these types of jobs.
Albano asked about a moonlighting deputy using equipment provided by the county.
“If something criminal happens, they have to act and it comes back to us anyway,” he said. âMaybe Putnam County shouldn’t be involved. It’s a very gray area where I don’t think we can completely eliminate ourselves from the accountability work in parallel. Ultimately, the decision rests with the county executive.