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Editorial: Yonkers back at square one to control overtime

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano speaks at a news

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano speaks at a news conference. (Aug. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

It didn't take long for Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano to lose an aide who was supposed to be a key ally in his fight against overtime costs.

In fact, a newly hired $140,000-a-year special adviser -- a man some had dubbed the "OT czar" -- lasted just two days.

Patrick Shea -- a retired special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration with three decades experience with the DEA, and another 14 years as a fraud investigator for the American Transit Insurance Co. -- resigned last week as special assistant on public safety policy for "personal reasons." The Spano administration said Shea left on "positive terms."

While it's unclear why the job wasn't a good fit, it's important that the mayor not give up on this endeavor. But he'll have to do better at recruiting next time.

The mayor's challenge is to find an objective professional who understands municipal finance, labor contracts, public safety and the intricacies and nuances of minimum-staffing provisions while navigating the city's complex land mines of politics, agendas and public feuds.

For sure, this is no easy task.

Finding the right person with the temperament, energy and know-how may require going beyond Yonkers or outside New York State.

Nonetheless, the conundrum for the mayor is whether the city can save $8 million in overtime costs, curb what he has characterized as abuses of an unlimited-sick time policy and keep the city's streets safe -- all while not adding to the public payroll.

To hear the fire union's take, these goals are not achievable because the city is understaffed -- the overtime costs are unavoidable, union officials say.

At this point, it's hard to know who is right or whether all the mayor's objectives are achievable in the short run. Shea's abrupt departure only makes it more difficult to understand.

There's no disputing, however, the need for a close look at these issues as Yonkers battles its own fiscal flames.

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