Vestiges Of The Last Charter Review Commission Have Come Back To Life. DeLeonardis and Sharp Shredded Them

Bob Turner and seven other members of the previous 2017 charter commission issued a release this weekend urging a “no” vote on the proposed charter that will be on the ballot this November.  Even by the lowest standards from their past campaign they have successfully lowered the bar.

City attorney, Vince DeLeonardis and Finance deputy, Mike Sharp, the chair and vice chair of this year’s charter review commission, issued a response.  The contrast between Turner and friends’ release and the response from DeLeonardis and Sharp is striking.  The release is full of wind and fury with an utter disregard for accuracy.   The response is clear, carefully argued, and devastating.

The one thing we can be thankful for is that we only have to endure this kind of uber rhetoric from Turner et al  for three more weeks.

Below is the press release from the current Charter Review Commission.  Following that is their response to the Turner release.


2018 Charter Commission Press Release – October 16, 2018

Attached is Saratoga Springs 2018 Charter Review Commission Chair Vincent DeLeonardis’ response to a letter recently issued by members of last year’s Charter Commission. It is unfortunate that these individuals declined to be part of the 2018 process, as three of them were formally invited to do, and instead have resorted to a letter with numerous inaccuracies and falsehoods, corrections for which are outlined in the response.

Given how contentious the Charter referendum was last year, the 2018 Commission aimed to find consensus between those on both sides of the issue, and it is curious to see members of last year’s group now denounce changes they themselves recommended a year ago, and feign ignorance on topics their meeting minutes show they are aware of. The letter also highlights several areas its authors are either not well-versed in or are purposefully obfuscating, such as current City Hall personnel, how the existing Charter functions, and New York State Law.

That this group has decided to misinform voters is regrettable, especially through a letter so obviously hypocritical and given that many of the complaints within the letter are easily proven incorrect based on publicly available information.

We encourage voters to review the proposal Charter on the City website to make their own determinations, and look forward to answering resident questions at the 2018 Charter Review Commission Public Forum on 10/23 at 6:30pm in the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The proposed Charter, as well as other information related to the 2018 Charter Review Commission, can be found at http://saratoga-springs.org/charter.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Commission Chair Vincent DeLeonardis, CC’d above, or me. 

Thank you,

Mike Sharp

2018 Charter Review Commission Vice Chair

Mike Sharp
Deputy Commissioner of Finance
City of Saratoga Springs
474 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
518-587-7098 ext. 2571


                          

2018 CHARTER  REVIEW  COMMISSION

RESPONSE TO LETTER FROM CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THE 2016-17 CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION

The 2018 Charter Review Commission has been provided with a letter drafted by Bob Turner, Gordon Boyd, Laura Chodos, Beth Wurtmann, Minita Sanghvi, Jeff Altamari, Pat Kane and Ann Bullock, in their capacity as former members of the 2016-17 Charter Review Commission.

As the letter contains numerous inaccuracies, misstatements of fact, and false allegations, it is necessary, although unfortunate, that a response be provided so that the voters can make a truly informed decision when they go to the ballot on November 6th.

The letter has been copied below in its submitted form. Portions of the letter have been separated to provide a response to each identified portion.  Responses are noted in bold.


Dear Friends,

As former members of the 2016-17 Charter Review Commission, we strongly urge a No vote on this year’s proposed changes to the Saratoga Springs’ charter. The proposed charter was developed with little input from the public, weakens the position of mayor, and does not separate legislative responsibilities from administering laws. The Citizens of Saratoga Springs deserve better government than this. The proposed charter is an inside job designed to serve the interests of city council members who wrote it at the expense of the citizens.

There are two proposals on the ballot, and both merit No votes. A Yes vote is a vote for unlimited City Council salaries, lack of management accountability, and more patronage and self-dealing in city government.   Vote NO!

Response: The claim that the proposed updates and amendments were “developed with little input from the public” is false.  To date, the Commission has held twenty public meetings, including two workshops and two public forums; submitted and received responses to questionnaires from former Council members and deputies, as well as designated City employees; conducted interviews with numerous individuals relevant to our review; and received extensive public comment and input at meetings, public forums, through written submissions, and in response to both an informal and formal survey, the latter of which generated responses from 250 City residents.

The 2018 Charter Review Commission was also benefitted by the 2017 effort and, in particular, by the numerous individuals who voiced opinions and expressed concerns both in favor and in opposition to the proposed change in our form of government. Many of those opinions and concerns remained relevant, and were duly considered, even with the understanding that the current proposed Charter would maintain our form of government.

Interestingly, Mr. Turner, Mr. Boyd and Mr. Altamari now complain of the level of public input while, at the same time, failing to indicate that each were asked to provide such input and be interviewed by the 2018 Charter Review Commission. Each declined our request.

The claim that the proposed Charter “does not separate legislative responsibilities from administering laws” fails to either understand or appreciate the fact that the 2018 Commission was charged with reviewing our Charter and, specifically, to find “efficiencies and organizational improvements within the current form of government to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs.” To separate the legislative and administrative functions as suggested would, of course, be to change the form of government.

  1. The 2018 Charter Commission is the four city council members and their deputies and city attorney.  All are city employees.  There were no private citizens on the Charter Review Commission.  There is not a single charter review commission in the history of Saratoga Springs or New York that does not have any private citizens.  It is a case of the “Fox Guarding the Henhouse.” VOTE NO.

Response: Saratoga Springs has five City Council members.  The 2018 Charter Review Commission consists of the four Commissioners and their deputies, the Deputy Mayor and the City Attorney.  Each member of the Commission was duly appointed by Mayor Kelly in accordance with New York State law.  The “fox guarding the henhouse” idiom is misguided and objectively false as it is the voters of Saratoga Springs, or “private citizens”, who will ultimately have final say and determine whether the proposed updates and amendments to the City Charter will be approved.

  1. Saratoga Springs voters should not give City Council members a blank check to set their own salary and benefits.  Under the current charter,the existing salaries for the commissioner and mayor are set at $14,500.  The 2018 Charter Commission members removed those constitutional salary limits.  Under the proposed charter, the commissioners and mayors get to set their own salary increases. This is bad public policy and government without oversight.  Vote no.

 Response: This statement is false.  Under the proposed updates and amendments to the Charter, City Council members do not have the ability to “set their own salary increases”.  The salary contained in the current Charter is not a “constitutional limit” and may be established by the Council pursuant Local Law.  The process by which any salary increase may occur remains unchanged from the current Charter.

As each member of the 2017 Charter Review Commission knows, or should know, a city council cannot increase their own salary during their term without a public referendum, in accordance with New York State law.

Establishing salaries by Local Law is not only allowed in the current Charter and the proposed 2018 Charter but, ironically, was also the method established by Mr. Turner. Indeed, Section 2.24 of the 2017 failed Charter provided that annual salaries for the Mayor and Council members “shall be established by Local Law in conformance with New York State Law.”  Thus, the salary amount identified is not a “constitutional limit”.  

Additionally, and for clarification, Saratoga Springs does not have “mayors” but, rather, only one Mayor.

The proposed charter has no limits on salary. Why?  According to the Charter Commission Chair, DeLeonardis said, “There is general consensus that the salaries are inadequate”.  Similarly, the Council members and their deputies maintained the policy of council members receiving taxpayer funded lifetime health benefits after 10 years in a part time position.  This new proposal adds fuel and incentives to runaway costs of our local government.  VOTE NO.

Response: As indicated above, neither the current City Charter, the proposed Charter, nor Mr. Turner’s failed Charter, contain “limits on salary”. 

It is also curious why Mr. Turner and the others who signed the letter question the removal of salaries from the Charter, when their own legal counsel, Bob Batson, explained to them that “the model charter rejects putting compensation in the Charter” (see 2/6/17 Commission meeting minutes). Even Pat Kane recognized that “the Department of State and NYCOM recommend that salaries not be in charters” and that “most charters do not identify salaries in the charter”.  Mr. Kane believed that “salaries should be left to the Council” and Gordon Boyd fully agreed, stating that “Council should set salaries” and proclaiming that “there is a moral and statutory obligation of the Council to set salaries” (see 3/6/17 Commission meeting minutes). 

That these individuals now take issue with what they actually proposed themselves is by definition hypocrisy.  

  1. There are no savings, only increased costs.  The official mission of the 2018 charter reform was to find “organizational efficiencies”.  Their own estimate of the potential savings of their charter is $0.  Moreover, their estimate does not include the $67,000 raise they gave the commission chair and city attorney, Vince DeLeonardis, to go from 30 to 40 hours a week. The new charter also does not include the significant salary increase of creating a Human Resources Administrator in Title 10.  VOTE NO.

Response: The charge placed upon the 2018 Charter Review Commission was to find “efficiencies and organizational improvements

 

”.

The claim that there are “no savings, only increased costs” is inaccurate. As was articulated on numerous occasions, the proposed updates and amendments to the Charter under Question 1 (which maintains a five member Council) will cost the taxpayers a total of $0.  Costs are only associated with Question 2 (which adds two Council Members-At-Large) based upon salaries, and potential benefits, for the additional Council members.

The determination by Council to make the position of City Attorney full time occurred well prior to the proposed updates and amendments to the City Charter and is, thus, entirely unrelated. Moreover, the position of Human Resources Administrator has existed in our Charter since it was approved by the voters in 2001 and, thus, already exists.  In fact, the HR Administrator was even interviewed by Mr. Turner’s Commission.  

To be clear, the proposed Charter does not include amendments that result in “creating” the position of Human Resources Administrator and it is troubling that Mr. Turner and the others could somehow be unaware of this, given their purportedly thorough review.  Simply moving the position from Title 3 to Title 10 will cost the taxpayers a total of $0.

  1.  The 2018 Commission is using taxpayer funds to run a political campaign to protect their jobs.  First, the 2018 Commission spent $7,500 of taxpayer dollars to Public Opinion Strategies, a prominent Republican polling firm, in Alexandria, Virginia, that asked individuals what party they belonged to and how they voted on the 2017 charter.  Second, it used taxpayer funding to send a political mailer to every voter in the city. The mailer does not even state that their proposed charter would continue “the Commission Form of Government”.  Why are they hiding the truth? It is designed to confuse voters who supported the 2017 charter into voting for the 2018 charter.  The mailer never states the difference between the 2017 and 2018 proposed charters.  VOTE NO.

Response: The claim that the 2018 Commission used or is using “taxpayer funds to run a political campaign” is false and wholly misguided.  Public Opinion Strategies conducted a poll regarding potential City Council expansion. They asked a variety of demographic questions, which informed how representative the pool of respondents was to the City’s population, and allowed the Commission to make an informed decision about what to include in the proposed Charter. Public Opinion Strategies was chosen because they were the lowest cost respondent and had the required polling expertise and bandwidth; and it is unclear how their work with Republican organizations would impact the results given that the 2018 Commission crossed party lines, the Charter itself is apolitical, and the respondents represented a cross section of City residents by demographic groupings such as gender, age, and political party, among others. The full respondent breakdown is, and has always been, available on the City website.

The claim that the informational mailer was somehow “designed to confuse” and is “hiding the truth” based upon Mr. Turner’s suggestion that it does not indicate that the proposed Charter would “continue the Commission Form of Government” is absurd. The mailer clearly states that the proposed amendments are “to improve our Charter without changing the form of government” and further states that the Commission was charged with finding “efficiencies and organizational improvements within the current form of government to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs”. 

I encourage Mr. Turner and the others to more carefully read the mailer prior to making such false and misinformed allegations.

  1. Saratoga Springs does not want a ceremonial mayor. The proposed charter would leave Saratoga Springs with the weakest mayor in New York State. The mayor is stripped of their appointment powers for the city attorney and land use boards. The Recreation Department is taken from the Mayor and given to the Public Works Commissioner. The Mayor no longer has the sole authority to give the State of the City Address or represent the city to the state. A weak ceremonial mayor is not in the best in interests of Saratoga Springs.   VOTE NO.

Response: Under the proposed Charter, the Mayor is not “ceremonial”, and any such claim would be false. The Mayor remains the “Chief Executive Officer” of the City and is administratively responsible for the Building Department; Planning Department; Zoning; Economic Development; staff support to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, and Design Review Commission; Open Space and Preservation of Lands; the City Historian; Collective Bargaining and serving as the Chair of the Capital Program Committee.

While the 2018 proposed Charter does not include a mere “ceremonial” Mayor, it is interesting to note that Mr. Turner and the others did propose such a Mayor in the failed 2017 Charter, something they now claim “is not in the best in (sic) interests of Saratoga Springs.” Indeed, Mr. Turner’s Charter proposed a Mayor who would have been recognized “as the head of City government for all ceremonial purposes” but would “have no administrative duties” (2017 proposed Charter, Section 2.04).  

In yet another example of hypocrisy, Mr. Turner and the others now take issue with having the appointments for the City Attorney and members of the land use boards be made with the advice and consent of the Council, when that is exactly what they proposed in 2017 (Section 2.04 and 4.03).  

  1. The proposed organizational changes are a recipe for confusion and diminished accountability. Under the proposed charter, the City Attorney, Director of Risk and Safety, Human Resources Director, and Information Technology Director are no longer accountable to any of the elected commissioners, but to the City Council as a whole. Having five or seven bosses means no one is responsible. Anyone who has worked in any sizable organization knows that if you have five bosses, you really have no boss. When decisions are needed, only dysfunction will ensue given this structure. Citizen access to these services will be limited, with no elected official to turn to for help. VOTE NO.

Response: Moving the Human Resources and IT Administrators to their own departments where they will be answerable to the entire Council recognizes that those positions serve city-wide functions and not simply departmental functions. The inclusion of these proposals is akin to how the City Attorney operates in the existing Charter, whereby they report and provide services to the entire Council.

The suggestion that “[h]aving five or seven bosses means no one is responsible” or that “you really have no boss” is incorrect and ironic. Under Mr. Turner’s 2017 failed Charter, the City Manager was to be “responsible to the City Council” (Section 3.04) and, thus, would have had seven “bosses”. However, there was no suggestion by him or the others, who now complain, that the City Manager would “really have no boss”.

Additionally, and for clarification, the City has a Mayor and four Commissioners. Human Resources was never under the direction of “any of the elected commissioners” but was, instead, under the Mayor’s Department.

  1. Keep politics out of the Recreation Program. Giving the Public Works Commissioner authority over the Recreation Department is likely to result in our children being an afterthought and given low priority. The Public Works has more important responsibilities like maintaining the city’s drinking water and city streets to be responsible for scheduling soccer games as well. VOTE NO.

Response: DPW currently and under the existing Charter already performs functions accounting for a significant portion of the budget for recreation. Allegations that moving the Recreation Department to DPW will result in “children being an afterthought” are baseless. The 2018 Charter Review Commission made the recommendation based upon public input and with full agreement and support of the Mayor’s Department, DPW, the Administrative Director of Recreation and members of the Recreation Commission. Recreation programming, such as the “scheduling of soccer games”, is the responsibility of the Administrative Director of Recreation and the Recreation Commission, and such responsibility would remain the same within the proposed Charter.

  1. The proposed two city council members are “Junior Council” members.   The second charter states “they shall have no powers or authority to serve or act as administrators or directors of any City department or entity. They shall not have deputies, but they shall be entitled to such employees as the Council may determine.” There is not a single city in the history of the commission form of government with additional council members that serve as legislators.

Response:  The false claim that the Council members-At-Large would be “Junior Council” members has been repeated by Mr. Turner on multiple occasions, with the apparent belief that it becomes less false by continually repeating it. 

 As is clearly indicated in the proposed Charter, the two additional Council Members-At-Large would “be vested with all the legislative powers and authority conferred upon members of the City Council by this Charter and the laws of the State of New York.” 

  1. The proposed new two city council members are “Junior Council” members.   The proposed charter states “they shall have no powers or authority to serve or act as administrators or directors of any City department or entity. They shall not have deputies, but they shall be entitled to such employees as the Council may determine.” Why have two classes of council members?  The new proposal dilutes the authority of the mayor, adds two positions without the same authorities as other commissioners, and allows commissioners to set their own salaries shows us the real purpose  of the proposed charter :  to strengthen the existing commissioners power and fill their pockets with more of our public funds.   VOTE NO

Response: Oddly, Number 8 is essentially a restatement of Number 8 above with additional misstatements of fact already addressed herein.  

By voting ‘no’ to the Charter referendums on November 6, Saratogians can reject this Inside Job. They can demand a charter reform process that includes citizen input, instills checks and balances to political power, and makes structural changes that modernize our government and keep pace with our City’s rapid growth. Fellow Saratogians: YOU DESERVE BETTER. 

Signed

Bob Turner

Gordon Boyd

Laura Chodos

Beth Wurtmann

Minita Sanghvi

Jeff Altamari

Pat Kane

Ann Casey Bullock

Response: Ultimately, it is essential that the voters be provided with education and information enabling them to make an informed decision on the proposed updates and amendments to the City Charter.  Voters are strongly encouraged to review the proposals on the City website and make their own determinations.  However, “YOU DESERVE BETTER” than being misinformed by Mr. Turner and the other signatories to the letter.

Vincent J. DeLeonardis

2018 Charter Review Commission Chair

Vote Yes On Proposed New Charter

There will be two separate ballot questions regarding charter change on the back of the November 6 ballot this year.

Voters will be able to vote “yes” or “no” on Ballot Question #1 which reads:

“Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be amended as proposed by the 2018 Charter Review Commission?”

This proposal is for changes to update and add efficiencies to the current commission form of government.

Voters will also be able to vote “yes” or “no” on Ballot Question #2 which reads:

“Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be further amended to provide for two (2) additional City Council members whose authority shall be legislative only?”

This proposal would add two legislators to the council who would have no administrative responsibilities.

If the first proposition does not pass, the second automatically fails, even if it gets a majority of votes.

Here are some of the proposed charter amendments referred to by Ballot Question #1

  1. All deputies are required to have relevant experience and/or  education for their position.
  2. The City Attorney,  Human Resources, and Information Technology will no longer operate inside a particular department.  Currently Human Resources and the City Attorney are part of the mayor’s office and IT operates within the Finance Department.  These operations serve the entire council and will now operate independently instead of reporting to a particular council member. Some argue that this would cause confusion because  they would be serving multiple bosses (the city council members). Department heads would be in charge of setting priorities for the overall needs of the city, however,  and not be subject to the potential pressure to give priority to the needs of the department they were part of.
  3. The Recreation Department, which is currently in the mayor’s office, would be moved to the Department of Public Works. Public Works is responsible now for the maintenance of the city’s grounds and recreational facilities. Housing  in the same department recreational programming and maintenance of the facilities they will use for these programs will allow for improved communication and coordination of services. Bob Turner, the chair of last year’s defunct charter commission,  expressed opposition to moving the recreation program to the Public Works Department arguing that it would be a boon for patronage for the Commissioner of Public Works.  This made no sense to me.  Skip Scirocco, the current Public Works Commissioner, is a Republican.  All the other members of the charter review commission are either Democrats or Independents.  Why would they want to provide Mr. Scirocco with patronage?  The change in my opinion was based on what would most benefit the city’s recreation programs.
  4. The Risk and Safety operation will move from the Department of Accounts to the newly independent city attorney’s office.  This makes sense because many of the issues for Risk and Safety are legal matters and again this is a service used by all departments not just Accounts.
  5. The appointments to many of the city’s boards such as the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board will still be made by the mayor but they will now require the advice and consent of the city council.  “Advice and consent”  means that a majority of the city council will have to vote to approve the appointments.  As readers of this blog will know, this is particularly important to this blogger.  Currently the process of appointing land use board members is totally opaque.  Usually the public finds out about an appointment after the fact when  a new person appears at a board meeting.  If this charter question is approved appointments will be vetted by the community and subject to public discussion.  This blogger thinks that some particularly odious appointments in the past might have been blocked had the process been transparent.  It is important to note that the previous charter commission also recommended this change.
  6. Other appointments such as those that would be made to the Rec Commission by the Commissioner of Public Works and those made to the Board of Assessmentt Review by the Commissioner of Accounts will now also be subject to the approval of a majority of council members.
  7. The text of the charter has been edited for purposes of consistency and readability.  The text regarding functions like the budget have been moved to their own sections to make their responsibilities clearer.  The format that describes the powers and responsibilities for each commissioner uses a uniform template to improve readability.

Proposition #2:

This would create two new members of the city council who would act as legislators without  management responsibilities for any city operations.  They would have the same  power over city legislation as the current commissioners.  One of the arguments made by the previous charter review commission was that many people were discouraged from running for office because of the time and expertise demanded to operate a city department.  Readers of this blog may recall that I agreed that this was a valid point.

As someone who feels strongly that the greater the participation in government, the stronger our democracy, I think this proposal deserves support.

Cost

 The adoption of Ballot Question #1 would have no financial impact on the city.

The adoption of Ballot Question  #2 would require the additional moneys to pay for the salaries and benefits of the two new legislators.  If adopted, the terms for the new legislators would begin in January of 2020.  The salaries for these new legislators would be decided by the next city council if Proposition #2 is adopted.  For purposes of projecting costs it was assumed they would be paid the same as the commissioners which is $14,500.00.  The cost of the health benefits would range depending upon whether they chose the individual or family health package.  Bearing that in mind, the cost of these  positions would range from $31,218.00 to $81,846.00.

I urge  readers of this blog to at least support Ballot Question #1.

 Regardless of whether you support a change in government to a city manager or not and regardless of what may or may not happen in the future, it makes sense to take advantage of this opportunity to improve the organization and efficiency of the government we have at this moment.

Until and unless we change our form of government, the changes in Proposition #1 would improve the city’s operations and contains some of the proposals made by last year’s charter review commission without changing our current commission form of government.

It is important to note that the make up of this  commission appointed by Mayor Kelly included Democrats, Republicans and an Independent. It was set up by a mayor who had supported last year’s proposal to move to a city manager form and was represented on the commission by her deputy. It also included Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin who had also supported a city manager. All the members of the commission are directly involved in the running of our city as elected officials or their hired deputies.  There was every reason to expect conflict over a variety of issues.  Yet the vote to put these changes before the public was unanimous. I believe the unanimous support represents the fact that these are practical changes that are needed.

A full red-lined text of the proposed charter as well as videos and minutes from all of the Charter Commission’s meetings are available on the city’s website at http://saratoga-springs.org/charter .There will be a public forum hosted by the Charter Review Commission at the Saratoga Springs Library on Tuesday, October 23 at 6:30 PM.

City’s Medical Examiner In Mount Case: No Mr. Nice Guy

Dr. Michael Sicirika is the medical examiner for Rensselaer County. He also has a company that does consulting for area police forces in forensics. Saratoga Springs hired him to do an autopsy on Darryl Mount following his death.

Brian Breedlove, the lawyer representing the family of Darryl Mount subpoenaed Dr. Sicirika to depose him. The deposition was done on November 29, 2017.

As part of the deposition, attorney Breedlove  established that Dr. Sicirika was paid by the city for his expert testimony.  It appeared that the attorney wanted to question Sicirika’s objectivity.

I think it is fair to say that Dr Sicirka approached the interview with some hostility. As evidence I offer the following excerpt.

 

Arrogant

Apparently  Breedlove was not allowed to ask Dr. Sicirika a question that would require him to give an opinion.  The doctor’s opinion was in his report to the city and characterized the original injuries to Darryl Mount as the result of an accident  The attorney  was allowed to ask the doctor about what facts he relied upon to reach his opinion.

Fractures

The attorney establishes that the police did not contact the doctor about doing a forensic analysis at the time of the injury.

NotContacted

 

The attorney raises the issue about why he did not review all the medical records from the time of the hospitalization.

DidYouReview

The attorney raises a number of issues that challenge Dr. Sicirika’s conclusion that Darryl Mount’s injuries were the result of an accident.

 

twoTheories.jpg

The attorney  pushes the issue about how the doctor ruled out that he was pushed rather than just fell.

 

PushedOrFellMoreWasItAFall

 

NoBeating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts From Dr. Mathiesen’s Deposition

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Mathiesen’s deposition for those of you who want to dig deeper.  Dr. Mathiesen was deposed on February 9, 2018 by Attorney Breedlove.

WhatGO25PertainedTo2WhatGO25PertainedTo3

WhatGO25PertainedTo4


WhatGO25PertainedTo5WhatGO25PertainedTo6WhatGO25PertainedTo7

 

WhatGO25PertainedTo8

 

WhatGO25PertainedTo9

 

WhatGO25PertainedTo10

There are a number of statements in the police records about Darryl Mount’s mother who was at the hospital and accused the police of assaulting her son.WhatGO25PertainedTo11

The attorney for the plaintiff then reviews with Dr. Mathiesen the language in General Order 25.

WhatGO25PertainedTo12

In the following excerpt Dr. Mathiesen  focuses on the word “substantiated” and the plaintiff’s attorney then points out how he is misreading the text.

WhatGO25PertainedTo13

Here the focus of the questioning is on the use of the term “investigation” rather than “administrative or internal affairs investigation”

WhatGO25PertainedTo14

WhatGO25PertainedTo15

WhatGO25PertainedTo16

Here the plaintiff’s attorney focuses on Dr. Mathiesen’s decision to rely on the police chief for all information on the Mount incident and subsequent related actions.

WhatGO25PertainedTo17

Here the plaintiff establishes that Dr. Mathiesen was aware that complaints about police misconduct had been made by Darryl Mount’s family shortly after the incident.

WhatGO25PertainedTo18

This section has to do with whether Dr. Mathiesen had told the reporter for the Saratogian newspaper that there was an internal investigation underway.  The plaintiff’s attorney is using an email from the reporter to the police chief.

WhatGO25PertainedTo19

Here Dr Mathiesen and the plaintiff’s attorney have an exchange over the relationship between lying and a lack of integrity.

WhatGO25PertainedTo20

WhatGO25PertainedTo21

WhatGO25PertainedTo22

Here Dr. Mathiesen and the plaintiff’s attorney get into a discussion about the allegations of police misconduct.

WhatGO25PertainedTo23

WhatGO25PertainedTo24

 

 

 

Dr. Mathiesen: A Failure In Oversight

Dr. Chris Mathiesen has insisted on this blog that the circumstances of the injury and death of Darryl Mount were vigorously and impartially investigated.

I received a dump of police documents related to the Mount case which were posted on the city’s website. I believe these are the documents that Dr. Mathiesen refers to that were released in June, 2014, as proof the case was pursued properly.  There are some seventy-two pages.  Most of them are written statements by the police including descriptions of their interviews with possible witnesses.  There are also statements from witnesses.  In addition there are statements from the firemen who came to the scene and helped transport Darryl Mount to Albany Medical College. 

The one thing that is clear from these documents is that no one said they saw Darryl Mount fall.  Without reliable witnesses we will never know with certainty how he sustained his injuries that night.

Contrary to “best practices” the police involved in the incident submitted statements but were never interviewed.  The document dump includes no transcripts of interviews with the officers directly involved in the incident.  In the deposition of Police Chief Greg Veitch, it is clear that not only were none of these officers interviewed but nothing was done to insure that they were isolated from each other when they drafted their statements.

It is also important to note that the medical examiner was not asked to look at Darryl Mount immediately following his hospitalization in order to do a forensic examination and as far as I can tell, the dump does not include his autopsy.

Over the last few days I have been studying Dr. Mathiesen’s deposition in the Mount case (I will be posting most of it shortly).  It has helped me better understand what I took to be his reticence to provide documentation in support of many of his claims.

According to his deposition his concept of managing the police department was to place complete trust in Chief Veitch.  Dr. Mathiesen’s knowledge of what went on in the police department began and ended with what Veitch told him.  He played no part in the investigation.  Here are some quotes from the deposition:

Question:  “Did you leave it to Chief Veitch to decide whether or not there should be an internal investigation or administrative investigation into the allegations of police misconduct with regard to incident of August 31, 2013, and Darryl Mount?”

Answer: “I left that to Chief Veitch because that’s his position.  That’s his job.  That’s his responsibility.”

Question:  “Did you leave it to his absolute discretion to decide what to do with regard to the allegations of police misconduct that we’re talking about.”

Answer: “I left it to Chief Veitch to carry out his duties as he was required to do.”


Question: ”With regard to the allegations of police misconduct against the officers involved in the Darryl Mount incident in August 31, 2013, did you make an effort to determine whether or not the chief was following General Order Number 25?”

Answer: “Again, I left it to the chief and the department to investigate that incident.”

Question: “But you don’t know what he did?”

Answer: “Specifically know exactly what he did?”

Question: “Yes”

Answer: “No. That’s not my job.”

Question: “Well, is it your job to make sure he complies with the policies as set forth in the general orders?”

Answer: “It’s my job to oversee the department.  I have great faith in Chief Veitch and I’m sure that he is a person who follows orders directly.”

Question: “As part of your job at oversight,  was it your job to make sure that he followed the policies?”

Answer: “Yes”

Question: “What, if anything, did you do to make sure he was following the policies?”

Answer: “I had great faith in Chief Veitch and I assumed he followed the policies.”

Question: ”So you didn’t make any effort to make sure he followed the policies?”

Answer: “No”

Question: “Do you know how administrative or internal affairs investigations would be conducted?”

Answer: “Specifically, no.”

So what is clear is that Dr. Mathiesen completely removed himself from any oversight of how the investigation was carried out.  He insisted on no ongoing reports as it proceeded and absented himself from any management to insure its integrity.  According to the record, as the head of the Department of Public Safety, his faith in Chief Veitch was such that he simply allowed Chief Veitch carte blanche and accepted the result of the chief’s investigation without question. 

This explains why Dr. Mathiesen’s statements’ conspicuously are void of documentation but rely entirely on what he was told.  Since he was completely external to the process his only source of information was  Chief Veitch.  He assumed as a matter of faith that the chief had ferreted out all essential information.  The fact that Chief Veitch was found to have lied to the press has not impacted that faith nor has the revelation of the chief’s internal documents exonerating his subordinates prior to the completion of the investigation.

I find the deposition deeply disturbing.  As I noted I am putting up most of it on this site shortly and others who read it may come to different conclusions.  Between the deposition of Chief Veitch and Dr. Mathiesen’s deposition, in my opinion there was a breakdown in oversight.   The people of this city elected Dr. Mathiesen Commissioner to be vigilant in insuring the integrity of the Public Safety Department.  Regrettably, his approach to oversight was to simply put complete faith in his chief of police.  

The central issue remains that the department was required to follow General Order 25 and do an internal investigation and failed to do so.

I know that Dr. Mathiesen has worked thousands of hours on behalf of the people of this city to provide the best services possible.  I have no question that he sincerely believes that it was appropriate in the management of his department to place broad and unchecked authority into the hands of his Chief of Police.  I know that his commitment to public service is exemplary. 

I regret that I believe that his approach to this investigation compromised his ability to properly provide oversight to his department when it was critically needed.  I think that it is most unfortunate that his record of service should be tainted by his failure in this matter.

 

 

Police Chief Veitch’s Deposition Exposes Faults In Handling Of Mount Case

During the last several days I have been reading the deposition of Police Chief Greg Veitch as part of the Darryl Mount suit.  Brian Breedlove, the plaintiff’s attorney, grills Chief Veitch in a document both disturbing and revealing. In the documents I include in this post  “Q’s” are along the left-hand side for Breedlove’s question and “A’s” for Veitch’s answers.  There are also entries for John D. Aspland who is the attorney representing the city and Veitch.

In this deposition Veitch  admits that there was only an “ investigation of criminal misconduct allegedly by Mr. Mount”.  There was no other investigation. This contradicts the narrative Veitch presented to the City Council.  It also raises serious questions about Dr. Chris Mathiesen’s statements.

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Here Veitch tries to educate Breedlove about the difference between misleading a newspaper reporter and lying to a newspaper reporter.

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Here Breedlove probes the mishandling of the investigation.

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More on the fact that there was a criminal investigation but no investigation into the injury of Mount.

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Here Breedlove probes to show the mess of how this was handled.  If this was a criminal investigation why did they do things that were outside of a normal criminal investigation.  Note that in the end, Mount was charged with a misdemeanor.

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Breedlove questions Chief Veitch about if and when he got a complaint about police misconduct.  This is important because a complaint would require following General Order #25 which would be an internal investigation.  Chief Veitch has to struggle to handle the contradictions of getting a complaint but not initiating an investigation.

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Breedlove questions him about making up his mind that there was no misconduct by his officers without the benefit of an investigation.

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Breedlove question him about any previous racism issues associated with the police involved with the Mount affair.  There is some confusions because documents appear to be missing.

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Barbara Lombardo keeps on with her investigation of the Mount case.

[Note: Dr. Chris Mathiesen has probably dedicated more time to serving this city than any other person I am aware of.  I know him to be a very caring person with a deep sense of public duty.  More than any other politician I have known in all my years here in the city, he has stood up to the powerful in our city in his support of what he considers fairness.   Having said this, I am unable to understand his defense of the investigation of the injury and death of Darryl Mount.]

Barbara Lombardo keeps on with her investigation of the Mount case.

 People should read her most recent post at her website.

Earlier Ms Lombardo wrote to Chris Mathiesen as a follow up to assertions he made on my website.  He had claimed that the Saratoga County District Attorney [JK:DA] and the Attorney General of the State of New York [JK:AG] had been contacted about “…doing an investigation and apparently decided that the investigation conducted by the SSPD [JK: Saratoga Springs Police Department] was satisfactory.”  I was skeptical about Dr. Mathiesen’s claim but it was Barbara who followed up with him.  She asked him to provide the supporting documentation that the DA and the AG had done a review of his department and had approved his department’s investigation and its conclusions.  She asked:

“Could you please provide any documentation that indicates the D.A. and Attorney General were contacted and decided the SSPD investigation was satisfactory? When did you learn this, and from whom?”

Dr. Mathiesen’s response to her in an email was:

“…I can only say that I learned this from a source outside of our department…”

“I was told that both agencies, as well as possibly others, had declined to initiate an investigation and it was inferred that, after looking into it, they found no reason to do so.”

Dr. Mathiesen’s reponse raises a number of further questions:

*If indeed, the AG and DA supported Dr. Mathiesen and his department, why should whoever his “source” was need to remain anonymous?

* Who might the other  organizations be that he was told came to the same conclusion?  Why didn’t his source name them?

*Does the fact that Dr. Mathiesen says that “it was inferred [emphasis added] that…they [the DA and AG] found no reason to [initiate an investigation]” mean that he was never explicitly told that this was so?

To Ms. Lombardo’s credit she has sent out FOILs to the city seeking documentation regarding any relevant correspondence between the city of Saratoga Springs and both the DA and the AG.

Dr. Mathiesen also asserted:

“Traveler’s Insurance[JK: The company that insures the city] investigated thoroughly and decided that the Mount family allegations are baseless.  Otherwise, they would have settled a long time ago to limit their expenses.”

I have spoken to a friend who is an experienced attorney.  He told me that if the amount being sought by the plaintiff is modest it is not unusual for the insurer to settle because the economics of litigation makes that a logical course.  On the other hand, the insurer has right up until the jury has made a decision to settle the case.  It does not logically follow that because they have not settled that the only reason can be that they think the plaintiff has no case.

Ms. Lombardo asked Dr. Mathiesen for a copy of the insurer’s report to the city and information on who conducted the insurer’s assessment of the case.

Dr. Mathiesen responded that he does not have a copy of the report and then offered:

“I was told that the reason that they were not doing so in this case was because the insurance company found no evidence to undermine the assertion that the police were not at all responsible for the injuries suffered by Darryl Mount.”

This once again raises the question of who the unnamed source is that told Dr. Mathiesen this.

Ms. Lombardo’s FOIL also seeks this report.

Dr. Mathiesen has expressed frustration that Ms. Lombardo and myself seem unable to grasp his points.  Speaking only for myself, I would be more than happy to accept Dr. Mathiesen’s arguments but I cannot do so without supporting evidence for his assertions.