Saratoga Springs Police Department Issues Press Release And Videos

The Public Safety Department issued a press release and supporting videos which are available on the city website [JK: There is an additional video not in the press release that that the “supporting videos” link goes to]. The release and videos are meant to supplement the original July 31 release regarding the events of July 30 involving All of Us and Back the Blue.

The release clarifies a number of outstanding issues:

  1. Back the Blue had submitted the required documents for a rally and for a march down Broadway. I interpret this as a response to criticism by All of Us that the Back the Blue was allowed access to the streets whereas they were not.
  2. Prior to the Back the Blue rally the police were monitoring social media and found that All of Us planned to counter demonstrate. The release refers to a post in which the group asserted “It’s time to show them we really mean business. ” The release makes apparent that the department viewed potential clash between All of Us and Back The Blue as grave. They cite this concern as the reason they sought assistance from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, the New York State Police, and the State Park Police.
  3. By 6:30 the opposing groups were in Congress Park. “From 6:30 to 7:45 tensions were high, words were exchanged, but the groups were separated by a wall of police officers and two SSPD horses.”
  4. The sheriff’s department vehicle that was referenced by some as a “tank” is a “…light tactical vehicle used as a personnel and equipment carrier for the tactical team.” The vehicle has been positioned at events including “…large protests, large special events, and all emergency management details such as the Whitney and the Travers (Saratoga Race Course Races). The release notes that the city police rely on outside available resources to supplement them to deal with large events.
  5. Three persons were arrested. The release does not indicate what they were charged with.

a. 16 year old female from Saratoga Springs was arrested at 8:48. “…Issued an appearance ticket, and released to her grandfather at 9:43 PM when he arrived at the police station.”

b. 17 year old male from Saratoga Springs was arrested at 8:48. “…refused to cooperate with police. Once his age and identity were determined he was transported to his parents at 11:59 and issued an appearance ticket.”

c. 19 year old Male, Andre Simmons from Schenectady. “…arrested 8:49 and released 9:24 on an appearance ticket.”

7. The release asserts that intelligence collected by “outside agencies” reported that “one of the protesters associated with ‘BLM’ and ‘All of Us’ was armed with a handgun and agitators from out of the area were going to be involved.” They note that some of the “protesters were wearing bullet proof vests and duty belts containing pepper spray.”

8. The release contains a run on sentence which appears to address the ordinance carried for the purpose of crowd control. “The use of OC Spray [pepper spray in an aerosol bottle] and pepper projectiles is on the lower end of the Use of Force Continuum and may be used to bring an individual or group of individuals under control when they are about to or are engaging in violent behavior.”

9. “The chief of Police authorized the use of pepper projectiles once the situation started turning violent as shown in video 7.” (Labeled “Protest Arrest”).

10. “Zero injuries were reported from the events detailed above.”

Some Analysis

I will be posting an analysis of the release and videos in another blog shortly.

An Extremely Disturbing Video of Lexis Figuereo, A Leader Of All Of Us

This is a very disturbing video that contains some very ugly language that some people may find difficult to listen to.

Lexis Figuereo confronts Pastor Earl Wallace of the Liberty Christian Fellowship Church who was part of the Back the Blue demonstration on the evening of July 30. The video shows the Saratoga Springs police officers trying to get between the minister and the crowd in order to avoid an escalation. In the background Mr. Figuereo is shouting through a bullhorn.

On July 31 Mr. Figuereo addressed this incident in a video on the All of Us Facebook Page. He says he regrets his earlier remarks and asserts that the behavior exhibited is not who he really is but that his anger over injustice clouded his judgement.

He makes no reference to apologizing to Pastor Wallace.

Night Of Drama Involving Pro-Police and Anti-Racism Groups

A volatile brew of demonstrators in support of police (Back The Blue), demonstrators calling for an end to racism (All of Us), and the county sheriff’s department armed with pepper ball guns and an armored vehicle seemed on the verge of boiling into something very ugly on the evening of July 30.

The best two stories on the event are one by Lucas Willard for WAMC and another by Stephen Williams in the Daily Gazette.

“Fulton County Area News” has also done quite a job covering the demos in Saratoga Springs. This is a link to their Facebook page. There is a four part series of videos that is quite long and records much of the evening when the combined police presence pushed the participants out of the intersection at Washington Street and Broadway.

According to Lucas Willard of WAMC, the only violence during the day of protests involved a pro-police demonstrator punching an anti-racism participant in the face. Fortunately, the victim was not badly hurt. Willard reports that the victim was asked to describe his assailant and told by a Saratoga Springs Police officer to come to the police station after the rally to pursue the matter.

Things could have been a lot worse. Putting aside any sympathies one might have for one side or the other, the Saratoga Springs Police Department faced a potentially explosive situation as elements within both groups taunted each other in exchanges that posed a real danger that violence could erupt.

Based on the news coverage, and not withstanding accusations against the city police made by All of Us leader Lexis Figuereo in the stories, it appears that the Saratoga Springs police behaved with restraint in trying to keep the opposing groups separated.

Back The Blue participants disbanded their event around 8:00 PM, but All of Us continued their demonstration eventually occupying the intersection of Washington Street and Broadway at the entrance to Congress Park.

The same restraint demonstrated by our city police cannot be said for the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department who regrettably had been invited to assist. The Sheriff’s Department came with an armored vehicle and with a tactical squad dressed in military gear. In a press release, Robin Dalton, Commissioner of Public Safety, stated that the police did not use tear gas. It is clear from the video that some sort of dispersant was used by the deputy sheriffs and some allege it was pepper balls. Saratoga County Sheriff Zurlo has not responded to requests by the media for comment.

Sheriff Zullo’s contempt for the public is yet another example of the incompetence and mismanagement that plagues our county government. The citizens of our city have a right to know what kind of ordinance was used in our streets.

From the web:

pepper ball is typically a projectile filled with pepper spray, usually launched from a device similar to a pistol. … According to a company that manufactures pepper balls, they are designed to create a 12-foot cloud with an irritant designed to affect the eyes, nose and throat of the people who are hit by the cloud.

The Need To Step Back And Find A Way Out Of Danger

To date, Police Chief Shane Crooks has shown restraint and judgement in his handling of protests. In my conversations with Commissioner Dalton she has continually impressed me with both her acknowledgement of the pernicious and abhorrent cancer of racism and in her desire to keep everyone safe during recent demonstrations.

Up until the demonstration Thursday night, Commissioner Dalton and Chief Crooks had allowed the group All of Us to occasionally block traffic in the course of their demonstrations. Thursday evening according to published reports, as it grew dark, demonstrators sitting and lying in the street at the intersection of Congress Street and Broadway were asked to move to the sidewalks or risk arrest. Three individuals were arrested before the streets were cleared. Apparently the arrests were achieved without violence. According to the Public Safety Press Release, the low visibility as the evening progressed posed a much more serious risk to the safety of the demonstrators and lead to the decision move the demonstrators onto the sidewalks.

An Assessment of The Confrontation

I know that many people viewing the videos of the event will be disturbed by the provocative behavior of the demonstrators whose outrage is directed at the police in a manner that basically baits them.

To their credit the police stand stoically holding their line.

I think it is helpful to try to get beyond one’s reaction to the behavior of the demonstrators. Many are quite young, have had little personal contact with the police, and are mainly motivated by their outrage of the police excesses they have watched on television such as the video of the murder of George Floyd

Others, particularly people of color, are bitter over experiences they have either personally had or observed at the hands of a legal system that too often fails to be a justice system.

I have been in demonstrations where there have been elements committed to acts of vandalism and the physical harming of the police. From watching the videos it is apparent to me that this crowd, if handled with the care shown by Chief Crooks and his officers, did not pose that kind of threat.

I think it most unfortunate that our police had to be the victims of the anger of the demonstrators, but to Chief Crooks’ credit he put the interest of public safety before the egos of his people in order to preserve order.

Having said that, I can fully imagine how Thursday night’s events could have turned into a riot in which many people could have been injured. The police like the army are a blunt instrument. Had one provocateur attacked a police officer, in the ensuing effort to subdue that individual, the whole thing could have gone up in flames.

I take a sanguine view of my fellow human beings both in uniform and out. In the chaos of a riot excesses occur that quickly expand the fighting exponentially. The concept of who is innocent and what is professional can rapidly disintegrate.

Trying To Revive The Hallowed Tradition of Non-Violent Protest

In the Public Safety Department’s press release, Chief Crooks announced that demonstrations blocking the streets will no longer be tolerated citing the risk to public safety. Unfortunately the release included the following:

“At this point the city of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Springs Police Department can no longer allow these groups to shut down roads and put themselves and others’ lives in danger. When the safety of pedestrians and motorists are constantly being put in danger, the protest is no longer peaceful.”

Police Chief Shane Crooks

I would like to think that this was a poorly worded statement and that Chief Crooks doesn’t really mean this.

There is a long tradition of peaceful civil disobedience in our country based on a philosophy put forward by Mahatma Gandhi and practiced by the Reverend Martin Luther King.

For people to sit down in the street and accept arrest as a vehicle for communicating their cause is an honorable and “peaceful” act of protest in the best sense.

In 1970, as a protest against the war in Vietnam, myself and several thousand others occupied the street in downtown Albany in front of the Federal Court House. Among the many activities located in the building was the health screening for persons being drafted into the army. In a mass action much of this downtown area became impassable as opponents of the war carried out a sit-in.

I was a leader in this effort. Prior to the event I contacted the Albany Police Department and advised them of the group’s plan. I made it clear that the event would be totally non-violent. I shared with them the route of the march and where the participants planned to sit and how long we planned to be there. I told them that people would accept arrest although some individuals might offer passive resistance and have to be carried from the scene.

Our goal, aside from urging our country to end the war in Vietnam, was to minimize the risk of anyone being hurt.

As there were literally thousands of people occupying the blocks in downtown Albany it would have been virtually impossible to remove them all if every person had to be carried away. If the city wanted to clear those streets they would have had to resort to tear gas and other forms of coercion.

To his credit, Mayor Erastus Corning, in contrast to Mayor Daley of Chicago, had the insight and shrewdness to show prudence and restraint. He did pretty much nothing. In fact, as I recall (it has been a very long time), I think the only visible presence of police on the street that day was the unarmed chief of police.

If the police had chosen to attack the crowd to drive them from the streets, I expect that in addition to many demonstrators and police being injured, the downtown would have been vandalized by an angry mob. I think Mayor Corning foresaw this danger.

Prudence and Principle

I would hope that the leadership of All of Us would embrace the tradition of non-violence by thinking more carefully about their own logistics. If they believe that our city police are an actual threat then all the more reason for them to take every possible measure to minimize the risk of unnecessary conflict to avoid anyone being hurt. It is the height of irresponsibility to continue with their program of spontaneous and unstructured disruption. They have a responsibility for the safety of the people they are encouraging to go into the streets in protest.

If Mr. Figuereo intends to organize an event in which demonstrators violate the law by obstructing traffic he needs to work with Chief Crooks on a plan that minimizes the risk to the members of All of Us and the police. His people need training as regards non-violent civil disobedience to insure that none of All of Us is harmed nor are members of the police force unnecessarily injured.

Having observed Chief Crooks’ management of the recent demonstrations I have considerable confidence that he would be willing to work with All of Us to allow them to make their statement through an action that would ensure the safety of everyone involved.

*************************************************************

The following are links to the many reports on the demonstrations

Channel 6 News July 30

Times Union July 31

Times Union August 1

Post Star July 31 (Lots of Pictures)

Channel 10, July 31

WAMC July 31

SA News (Lots of Video)

Channel 13 July 31

Channel 13 Video of Pepper Balls Being Fired At Protesters

Some Interesting Anecdotes Regarding The History of Discrimination In Saratoga Springs

[Lew Benton sent me this note and graciously agreed to allow me to publish it. Lew served as Commissioner of Public Safety from 1988 to 1997. I believe he is the longest serving Public Safety Commissioner]

John,


Note that your piece detailing Commissioner Dalton’s recent forum on policing elicited quite a response. And while there were some incorrect statements attributed to participants, particularly those dealing with the district attorney’s prosecutorial discretion, I think the commissioner did a damn good job.

But how to respond to racism, unequal treatment and discrimination in the criminal justice system, and allegations of police brutality is not the sole responsibility of the department of Public Safety. It is the responsibility of the entire community.

We have certainly not been immune to discriminatory practices. Here are a few high profile examples.

It was 1877, the height of the post war Gilded Age, when Joseph Seligman – fresh from masterminding the plan to refinance the nation’s Civil War debt – was refused accommodations at the Grand Union Hotel because he was a Jew. Management of the Grand Union had been taken over by Judge Henry Hilton, and Hilton’s act to bar Seligman and his family became a national cause celebre, the most public anti-Semitic incdent in America up to then.
Said Hilton, “As the law permits a man to use his property as he pleases, I propose exercising this blessed privilege, notwithstanding Moses and all his descendents object.”

Headlined the “New York Times”: “A SENSATION AT SARATOGA. NEW RULES FOR THE GRAND UNION. NO JEWS TO BE ADMITTED. MR. SELIGMAN, THE BANKER, AND HIS FAMILY SENT AWAY.” Thus this place became synonymous with American Antisemitism.

It’s 1942. Yaddo has elected to admit African American artists and writers for the first time. Among them is Langston Hughes. Saratoga Springs, by then a city, still had racially segregated accommodations, including the New Worden hotel whose bar was a favorite Yaddo watering hole.


Hughes – already a published novelist, poet and playwright – had written “Let America Be America Again” four years earlier, so it was more than ironic that Yaddo executive director Elizabeth Ames deemed it necessary to seek assurances that Hughes would be permitted in the Worden bar. Here is the October 16, 1942 response she received from the Worden’s proprietor:

Dear Miss Ames,

Replying to yours of the 15th, I do not object to Langston Hughes, the colored writer coming in our bar as long as he is in the company from someone else from Yaddo.

Cordially yours, Edward C. Sweeny


At least this past institutional racism was not anonymous.

Much more recently, Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim, whose physician father is a Korean- American, was the target of racial epithets anonymously published online in the “Saratogian” during a re- election campaign.
Ron publicly protested. The then publisher of the “Saratogian” said he was “… distressed that a candidate would not address an issue (privately) before going to the media… “ as if to acknowledge that he did not consider his newspaper among the media bona fides. The then editor, in more measured response, wrote that the racial slurs were “… offensive…” and she “…did not want such comments associated with the Saratogian.” Still, they were deemed acceptable for publication.

Today, of course, it is illegal to bar a Jew from a Grand Union or an African American from a New Worden bar. But it’s not illegal to be an anonymous racist or political operative who, emboldened by the internet, can hit and run without fear of retribution or sanction.


Then there is a more subtle discrimination driven, in part, by political pressure.

Cases in point.

In 1989, I began a process designed to encourage minorities and women to compete for appointment to the City’s fire and police services. At that time there were members of the community who believed, incorrectly I thought, that non-white males were unlikely to be appointed. There was and no doubt still is a dearth of good, well paying career opportunities available to encourage young minority members of the community to stay.


We set out by re-tooling the Civil Service test announcements, distributing them widely throughout the City, and offering pre-test orientation and other enticements. This was done through a committee I appointed made of the City Civil Service executive, the League of Women Voters, representatives of the police and fire services and a representative of the NAACP. The local press was supportive and profiled the initiative.


Of course, not everyone was happy. There was some internal resistance and some suggested it was not politically savvy. Yet there was some success. We were able to appoint the city’s first female firefighter and, in 1992, the second black police officer.


But in 1997, two years after I left public safety, an action was brought against me alleging reverse discrimination. The action was ultimately dismissed after I argued my own case before the NYS Division of Human Rights. What was more telling was the community response. Not one member of the then City Council spoke out in support of my action, nor was any legal assistance offered.


Instead of affirming a policy of inclusive public hiring the then council was silent. A great opportunity ignored and a subtle message sent.


In 2004, an action was brought against the city by a black man denied appointment to the city fire service by the then commissioner. The city settled the case for $100,000 in compensatory damages. I am not privy to why this young man was denied appointment and it would be irresponsible to suggest that it was based solely on his race, but the award suggests culpability and adds to the perception of a racial motive.


In the final analysis only the community at large and its institutions can address racism and its by-products by recognizing it and publicly calling it out. Otherwise I suspect we are spinning our wheels. Public Safety has a major role to play but not, by far, the only one.


Just re-read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Might be a good starting point.

Lew

A Profile of Lexis Figuereo: Leader of Saratoga “All of Us”

The Daily Gazette Newspaper published a profile of Lexis Figuereo who is identified as a leader of the group “All of Us” in Saratoga Springs.

The story describes the difficult childhood he had in New York State’s youth penal system.

The story notes:

Figuereo does not mince words or conform to what some of the activists derisively refer to as “respectability politics.”

Gazette July 27, 2020

This is a screen shot from the recent “community conversation.” It clearly reflects his approach. Nedra Hickenbottom, seen below, is his mother who was also interviewed in the Gazette article.

“All Of Us”: A Troubling Strategy

The group “All of Us” has announced their plans to demonstrate on Sunday July 26, 2020, at City Hall in downtown Saratoga Springs. Their release focuses on two issues.

  1. They assert that the city’s plan to repair or replace the vandalized statue commemorating New York’s 77th Infantry Regiment’s role in the United States Civil War, is an example of putting property over people.
  2. They assert that the recent “Community Conversation” put on by the Commissioner of Public Safety regarding the police “silenced the people.”

This is the text of the release:

Join All Of Us at City Hall in Saratoga on Sunday, July 26 at 5:00 p.m. to demand that the people’s voices be heard and that the city prioritize people instead of prioritizing property.

The City of Saratoga Springs continues to prioritize property over people. Most recently, time, attention, and energy has been given to a statue yet not the call for justice. The time and money spent on the statue would be better spent on addressing issues of homelessness, police brutality, and all forms of racism and oppression.

Not only has the city chosen property over people, they continue to ignore and silence the people. At a recent “community” conversation, when the community tried to speak they literally muted the line and silenced the people. On Sunday, we will give space for the voices of the people to be heard!

We will not be silenced!

We will give space to hear from the community, unlike the city which literally silenced the voices of the community.

All of Us Press Release

A Question of Strategy

It is beyond dispute that racism is fundamental and pervasive in our country. A police officer, with his fellow officers present, knelt on a Black man’s neck for almost nine minutes not only indifferent to the impending death of his victim but in front of a crowd that he must have known was recording the event.

It graphically demonstrated that the problem could not be simply attributed to a rogue policeman. It demonstrated the sense of impunity that existed in his police department. In so doing it shocked the conscience of most Americans.

The outrage and anger of Black Americans who have had to suffer this treatment is understandable.

Still, one of the legacies of the extraordinary life of Martin Luther King was the understanding of the need to develop a strategy that went beyond righteous anger if change was going to happen.

The way we pursue social change shapes whatever we achieve.

“The Community Conversation”

On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton convened what she described as a “Community Conversation” via Zoom. She, along with Police Chief Shane Crooks, and Assistant Police Chief John Catone made themselves available to anyone interested. Due to the limits imposed by Zoom only one hundred people were able to actually connect although others were able to watch the event.

The intent of Commissioner Dalton was laudable but the unstructured event descended into an exercise in which little that was constructive was achieved as participants used the occasion to vent their anger about the injustices they have experienced and their profound hostility to the police.

One of the main participants was Lexis Figuereo. He appears to have some leadership position in “All of Us.” He has appeared on television newscasts and has been quoted in local newspapers.

Some dedicated soul in the community named Megan Gorss not only crafted a transcript of the event, but included fact checking. She also followed up with most of the people who spoke at the event and included their comments about what happened.

This is a link to her work.

I have extracted a portion of her text. I did so in order to allow the readers of this blog to determine for themselves whether Mr. Figuereo was silenced. While I do not think the event was very fruitful, in my own opinion, Commissioner Dalton provided Mr. Figuereo much time to air his complaints.

The Vandalized Statue

I also take exception to the allegation made by All of Us that the fact that the city plans to repair or replace the statue of the Union soldier vandalized in Congress Park proves the city places “property over the people.”

For a start to reduce the statue to “property” seems unfair.

Statues are used as symbols to express the ideals of a community. It is for this very reason that many communities are removing those that represent the Confederacy. Persons who fought in a war that would decide the future of slavery and who did so on the side that supported this odious institution do not deserve the status of icons.

The statue that was vandalized in Congress Park represents the local men who fought, and in some cases died, to defend the Union of the United States. While all of them may not have been motivated by the cause of emancipation, it is reasonable to assume that many were.

It seems to me ill conceived for All of Us to expend energy attacking people who want to continue to publicly recognize those whose sacrifice contributed to the end of slavery.

Many of the same people who are supporting the reconstruction of the statue would also I believe, support changes in the police department if convinced that there is a problem with the Saratoga police using excessive force or engaging in racial profiling.

The best way to address such issues and gain support is to document the events.

The 13 Demands of All of Us

I applaud All of Us for crafting their thirteen demands. These are a good starting point to discuss reform. Unfortunately, at least in Mr. Figuereo’s case, he appears unwilling to consider the impediments to some of the reforms All of Us seeks.

The transcript includes Commissioner Dalton’s response to demand #1 which is:

“We demand prosecution of all law enforcement and corrections officers for all violations of the civil rights of all people of color, marginalized individuals, and all peoples for, but not limited to, killings, beatings, false arrests, and harassment.” 

She notes that decisions on whether to prosecute lie with the County District Attorney and not the police.

Mr. Figuereo responds:

I’m trying to talk.  There are things that you can do to make sure that these people are prosecuted, though.  You can switch- you can make rules.  You have- you have powers.  You have powers.  You’re telling me that you have no powers at all over your police officers?  And what they do, at all?  I’m not talking about- I’m not even worrying about what happens after, I’m talking about the fact of them being held for accountability.

A Real Opportunity For Change

People who follow this blog know that I wrote extensively about what I considered the woeful mismanagement of the investigation of the death of Darryl Mount under the previous administration and Chief of Police.

To the extent that All of Us can produce documentation of abuse they can expect my vigorous support.

I know that I am not alone in wanting to find effective vehicles for combating the racism that has been so much a part of this country since its beginning. Building a movement that will bring about meaningful and lasting change requires developing thoughtful and disciplined strategies that seek to develop broad public support.

An Excerpt From The Transcript:[JK: I have highlighted the section where Commissioner Dalton responds to the 13 demands made by All of Us]

Lexis Figuereo: Can you hear me?  Yeah, thank you for having me.  So, there’s a lot of things that you’re not actually answering.  I see you avoiding almost all the questions that you’re given when it comes down to anything that’s dealing with the protests or what’s going on in the Black community.  Why is that?

Robin Dalton: The reason that is, is because I need to understand what the concerns are. And I’m here to listen to the concerns and then come up with a way to address them.  I’m not going to be able to come up with a way to address them on the spot, but what I do want to do is listen and acknowledge what’s going on and hear from everyone in the community to put together a plan.  I 100% don’t have all the answers, 100%.  But what I need to do is be able to convers- like, have conversations like this one, hear what the concerns are, and then work together to come up with solutions.

Lexis Figuereo: Come up with solutions.  Alright, that sounds good.  You guys already heard my 13 Demands that we have as far as from my group.  You know about it, the Chief knows about it, the Chief knows about it-

Robin Dalton: What group are you representing?  I’m sorry to interrupt.

Lexis Figuereo: What’d you say?

Robin Dalton: What group are you representing?  I’m sorry, I don’t- I can’t see the name.  I’m far-

Lexis Figuereo: I’m representing All Of Us.  I’m the person who’s been- I’m the person who’s doing all the protests. You know that.  You know that.  So, you know that, Robin.  You’ve been trying to, supposedly, get a hold of me, that you’ve been telling everybody.  You have not been trying to get a hold of me.  I don’t- I have never spoken with you in my life.  So the things that you are telling the community about me is a lie.  I have a meeting that I was supposed to be having with the Chief and that is on my time, when I’m prepared to have a meeting with the Chief.  So, like I said, you are not going to sit here and not address any of these things, that you’re not addressing anything.  You know what the problem is, the problem is that Black people are being treated unfairly by your police and it’s been going on for years and years and years.  And no changes have happened.  And you know that.  So, what do you mean, you don’t know what’s going on?  And that is systematic, that is systematic.  From the day that I moved here, I’ve been treated like crap by the police that you hire and we pay with our taxes.  With my money.

Robin Dalton: So, I just want to apologize if you’ve reached out to me, I have not heard from you.  I apologize that I haven’t reached out to you.  I have tried to reach out to All Of Us.  There’s a lot of different people popping up as leaders in this movement.  I am always here to open up the dialog, I have always been open to conversation.  I would absolutely be open to meeting with you, I just haven’t heard from you and I don’t have your contact information, but I would love to sit down and meet with you at any time.

Lexis Figuereo: And, okay, and that’s fine, we can sit down, as far as this public forum while we’re in front of everybody, so everybody can see what’s going on,  I would like to know what you are going to do about the racism in your Police Department.  You should have the answer.  You should have the answer.  You should have the answer.  You should have the answer right now.  It should be a quick answer, right now.  You shouldn’t have to be thinking about it.

Robin Dalton: I would love to know what you think we should do.  Like, I want to hear from you what you think some solutions would look like.

Lexis Figuereo:  As I’ve said, I am the member of All Of Us from Saratoga.  You have seen my demands.  I have tagged Meg in the post.  She sees it.  You guys know, the Chief knows it, the Chief knows my 13 Demands.  You want me to read them out to you?  You know, the 13 Demands-

Robin Dalton: No, no.  Actually, I have them right here [Dalton holds up a piece of paper and points to it] and if you want, I can take a moment to go over the 13 Demands.

Lexis Figuereo: Yep.  Let’s go over them.  And let’s see how you implement those 13 Demands.

Robin Dalton: Yeah, I’d be happy to go over them.  [To Chiefs:] Is that okay with you guys?

Lexis Figuereo: And- and just let it be on note, that you just said that you didn’t even know who I was, but then you said that you had my demands.  You had my demands, and you have reached out to Holly- you have reached out to Holly to get my information, because you know what my name is.  You’ve reached out the Holly-

Robin Dalton: Listen.  All I heard was your first name.  I can’t see the screen, I can’t see your first and last name or your face from how far away I am sitting, so in no way was I intentionally trying to not-

Off Screen: …f****** trash.  Wait what is- My s*** is hot.  And I want the fan to, like, fan.

Lexis Figuereo: What is this?  Like, what’s going on…?

Robin Dalton: Okay.  So would you like for me to go over the 13 Demands?  I’m happy to do so.

Lexis Figuereo: Yes.

Robin Dalton: Okay.  The first one- I have them right here.  The first one is, “We demand prosecution of all law enforcement and corrections officers for all violations of the civil rights of all people of color, marginalized individuals, and all peoples for, but not limited to, killings, beatings, false arrests, and harassment.”  I am not in charge of prosecuting.  We’re law enforcement.  That would have to be a question for the DA.  Either the DA here or the Attorney General.

Lexis Figuereo: So- so you cannot make it- so you cannot- you have nothing to do with- no, no, actually- 

Robin Dalton: I have nothing to do with- 

Lexis Figuereo: I’m trying to talk.  I’m trying to-

Robin Dalton: -who gets prosecuted.  Not one thing.

Lexis Figuereo: I’m trying to talk.  There are things that you can do to make sure that these people are prosecuted, though.  You can switch- you can make rules.  You have- you have powers.  You have powers.  You’re telling me that you have no powers at all over your police officers?  And what they do, at all?  I’m not talking about- I’m not even worrying about what happens after, I’m talking about the fact of them being held for accountability.

Robin Dalton: You know what?  I feel like this would be better in a private meeting so we could have some back and forth dialog.

Lexis Figuereo: Okay.  Okay, now it’s a private meeting?  You just said it was fine- you just said it was fine to not have a private meeting, and you-

Robin Dalton: You want me to go through the demands and respond to them?  I’m happy to do so, but you have to allow me the opportunity to read them and talk about what I can control and what I can’t control. 

Lexis Figuereo: You read it.  You read the one demand.  And you said what your answer was to that and I-

Robin Dalton: Okay.  So, the second one is, “Specific to-

Lexis Figuereo: Wait- you’re- now, now wait a second, wait a second.  Now you’re going to talk over me?  That’s disrespectful, because I did not talk over you.  I did not. 

Chief Catone: This is [indiscernible].

Robin Dalton: Yeah.

Lexis Figuereo: I did not.

Robin Dalton: Alright, I’m going to go onto the next person.

Lexis Figuereo: Now you’re going to cut me off?  That’s what I’m saying.  See- do you see what’s going on, Saratoga Springs?  Do you see what’s going on?  This is why we are having these protests.  This is why.  This is why.  I am talking civilly just like everybody else did.  That man before- the man before me came at you just like I did.  He sure did.  He sure did.  And you answered none of his questions, either.  And he had his facts, alright.

Robin Dalton: Lisa, can we go onto the next person?

Lexis Figuereo: Yes.  Why do you want to go onto the next person?  The people want to hear me.  The people want to hear me.  They want to hear me speaking to you in public, that’s what the-

[Lexis is muted]

Robin Dalton: If you want to mute all, I’m happy to read through all 13 Demands.  [To Chiefs:] What do you think?  Yeah?

Lisa: Everybody’s muted right now but you.

Robin Dalton: Okay.  I’m going to quickly go through the 13 Demands that were brought up for All Of Us.  The second one is, “Specific to the offices of the DA, City, and County, divergent back to the community of all seized proven drug profits from convicted drug charges.”  And I was hoping Chief Catone could address that, perhaps?  And how civil asset forfeitures works specific to drug cases.

Chief Catone: So, that’s really at the discretion of the District Attorney’s office.  When they prosecute the cases and whatever the ultimate disposition of the case is.  I will tell you this, that whatever moneys do come back — and they are minimal — it is split up three ways.  It is split up between the Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, and I believe it’s either CAPTAIN or OASIS that gets the other third.  But we do not do forfeitures on a regular basis.  They’re far and few between.

Robin Dalton: The third item on here is, “Automatic firing for all racist texts, emails, letters, social media posts, phone calls, and so-called private conversations by any law enforcement officers or correction officers.”  So, my immediate response to this was, I got a little bit stuck in the “automatic firing” because I think it’s really important for people to understand that all of our officers are bound by civil service and union contracts.  And so, we- there’s really no such thing in the state of New York — where civil service exists — as automatic firings.  That being said, if any of those things came to my attention, I would hand them over to the Chief who would discipline accordingly.  The fourth item is, “Chargeable offense and process of Community Response Review with recommendation powers for all “living Black hate crimes” for private citizens who commit these crimes and the police who attempt to enforce them.”  My understanding of that is that it is looking for a third party civilian oversight or a civilian review board.  As of right now, I am the civilian oversight.  I’m elected every two years and that’s what my job is to do at this moment.  Number five is, “Automatic firing for all disengaged or damaged body cams.”  We have had body cameras, we’ve had dash cameras, we have backseat cameras, we have cameras throughout the city.  We’ve had them since 2013.  When it comes to disengaged or damaged body cameras, my only concern there is that in the event that an officer’s camera was damaged, I’m not- I mean, I don’t know- I’m not really sure [indiscernible] that much, honestly.

Chief Crooks: The problem with that is the cameras are electronics just like phones.  Everything else, they break down over time, they require maintenance, they’re run(?) by magnets, the way they’re held onto the officers, they get knocked off.  It’s- that has a lot of issues within [indiscernible] the ways that they could be damaged.  They’re not- in accidental damage because you’re going to make an arrest and your camera falls off just doesn’t make sense.

Robin Dalton: Number six is, “Specific to the DA. Abolition of all no-knock warrants.” That, as stated, is specific to the DA.  Number seven is, “End of all ticket writing incentive programs, speed trap schemes, parking violations, and traffic stops for petty violations.”  I just want to point out that we do have parking enforcement.  They are not under the law enforcement- or, they’re not under the Police Department.  They are separate from the Police Department.  We don’t have a traffic division so we don’t have any speed trap schemes.

Chief Catone: Nor ticket quotas or anything.

Robin Dalton: Nor any- and we don’t have any ticketing quotas, at all, whatsoever.  Number eight is, “The end to all non-recorded sobriety tests.”  All of our sobriety tests are recorded.  Number nine, “Abolition of chokeholds, strangleholds, and hogties for all law enforcement and correction officers inside jails and prisons.”  [To Chiefs:] Do one of you guys want to take that?

Chief Crooks: We don’t have a jail.

Chief Catone: We have a holding cell, we don’t have a jail or prison facility.

Robin Dalton: But specifically, I think they’re talking about the chokeholds, strangleholds, and hogties.  Those are illegal in New York State already.  And they are not permissible in our department.  Number ten is, “Ban shooting at moving vehicles.”  This was important I think to talk about.  The last time a firearm was discharged at anyone in Saratoga Springs by our Police Department was in 1997 and it was actually at a moving vehicle.  Chief Catone, I know, could speak more to that, but my only concern with that is we have a lot of mass gatherings here.  We have everything from Victorian Street Walk to Chowder Fest.  In the event we had an act of terrorism and there was a moving vehicle coming towards a crowd, I would like our Police Department to have the ability to stop that vehicle in any way they could.  Number eleven, “Require all force be reported with racial data captured for both the law enforcement officer or correction officer and the injured party and review by a Civilian Review Board with full access to unredacted files and evidence and the power to submit to the Attorney General for further review, investigation, and potential charges.”  As of right now, I know that all force is recorded with racial data already.  In terms of the rest, I don’t know if either one of you has a response to the rest?

Chief Catone: No, I- you know, I think it goes back up to whatever question that was, number four or five, is-

Robin Dalton: The civilian review board?

Chief Catone: Yeah.

Robin Dalton: Yep.  Number twelve, “Anti-racism training for all persons working with- for law enforcement and detention facilities (including but not limited to jails, prisons, and juvenile detentions).”  We are all about anti-racism training and bias training, it’s something we’re going to be looking at in the future and something that we’ve done in the past, as we’ve discussed.  Number thirteen is, “Demilitarize law enforcement and defunding of law enforcement agencies with the funds reallocated to Community Based Restorative Groups for conflict resolution and restorative practices and other community-based services and solutions.”  So, I’m really glad this was brought up, because we have already begun to cut the police budget .  I cut it by about 8% this Spring already, but I can’t reallocate those funds.  The reason I had to cut our budget was because we don’t have the money anymore.  So it’s not that I’m taking money to be able to put it somewhere else, it’s that we don’t have the money in general.  The city’s budget is expected to go down by a third because of the pandemic and the effect it’s had on our economy.  I also want to point out that social services are not provided by the city of Saratoga Springs.  Social services are provided by Saratoga County.  So, when you talk about reallocating police funds to social services, you’re talking about the county budget and not the city budget which I think is an important distinction to make.  Those are the 13 Demands as I’ve read them from All Of Us.  I would be happy to have a future conversation about this more in detail in the coming weeks, but hopefully I’ve addressed it, at least initially, as much as I can.  Again, I welcome further communication back and forth on any of those issues.  But now, I would go back to questions, comments, and concerns from people on the call.

Lisa: Ilyssa Roberts.

Robin Dalton: Ilyssa?  Are you there?

Ilyssa Roberts: I am.  Hi.  First: as a white woman, you have completely dominated this conversation and in fact muted a community member of color.  I’d prefer to yield my time back to Lexis so that he can respond to the demands that you just read through.

Robin Dalton: Okay.  

Lisa: Okay, he’s coming back in.

Robin Dalton: Lexis, are you there?  Well, if he comes back on, is there anyone else who wants to make a comment or question?  I see a hand raised somewhere.

Lisa: So, everybody’s raising their hand in order here.  So the next one is Nedra.  

Robin Dalton: Nedra, are you there?

Nedra Hickenbottom: Yes, I’m here.

Robin Dalton: How are you?

Nedra Hickenbottom: Alright.  And you?

Robin Dalton: I’m fine.

Nedra Hickenbottom: I have to agree that you’ve been passing off all the different things that you’re saying to the DA.  “The DA, the DA, the DA.”  I mean, what is it that you or some of the rest of the cops and stuff can do, as a Chief, to cops that are treating Black people the way that they do?  Just the other night, there was five cops on top of a guy who had his shirt off.  And staying there, you didn’t see him with a weapon, but you guys were all on him.  Tasing?  I heard that tasing was done there and I think you need to investigate.  I also know that there’s cops that are stealing people’s money because I know that the individual had money.  And it was seen that a cop went and took his money and said that there is nothing in the wallet.  So what is going on here with this Police Department?  I cannot send my kids out without somebody having to follow them or either worry about them since they were little, because I have to worry that my kids of color are going to be harassed by your cops.  And this has been going on for a long time.  And I’m just hearing that you’re the only person that’s part of a review board?  Who are you to be the only person?  You’re not even a person of color, of anything.  They need to be a whole lot of other people.  There should be Chinese, Native American, it should be a whole group of people, and people that are Black also.  And not just one single woman supposedly being the ruler of all and doesn’t seem to really know what she can really do or not do and passes it off to the DA.  I don’t understand this at all.  And I want to know what are we not doing that we’re not getting some of these cops out of here.  They need to be defunded and out.  We need to start anew, or maybe we don’t need a Police Department anymore here in Saratoga Springs if you’re going to treat people the way that you do.  And to that other woman earlier talking about the fact that she’s seen people at protests doing things, I have yet to see.  I’ve seen people almost being ran over, almost hurt.  The last protest that went on, the cops did really nothing.  That was the one time they did nothing.  And I have yet to see them wear masks at protests.  Where’s the mask there?  I don’t understand why I have to wear a mask and the cops don’t.  Who said that it was something different?  I think that I need to speak to the Governor.  

Chandler Hickenbottom: Not only that- Wait, we’re going to wait a second, because as one of her Black children that actually could not get on this and I am also part of the group of All Of Us,  I want to say some things for my brother as well.  What I’m not understanding is why- why when there’s like a fight or something called, we have 20 police officers showing up at Clancy’s?  Because just the other night, Wednesday night, there was a fight that happened between two Black young men and another white male and all of a sudden — I’m sitting across the street at my father’s house — and there’s sixteen cop cars pulled up and it’s from four different departments.  Are y’all that bored?  You don’t have anything else to do?  During this time-

Nedra Hickenbottom: Yeah, what is Park Police doing there?

Chandler Hickenbottom: Hold on, no.  During this time though- I’m not understanding: y’all have all this time on your hands.  Y’all could be doing some training.  I’m not understanding: where is our money going to?  Because you are wasting our money by having these officers come to a fight literally for no reason.  They want to sit here and ask people that weren’t even at the fight whether or not there was 20 people involved, knowing that when the person called they said there was 3 people involved.  But it was two Black males so y’all had to show up.  You had to show up and show out.  And that’s ridiculous.

Nedra Hickenbottom: And how come when a Black person gets pulled over, four different cop cars has to come?  And why do you have to come into my car without having a warrant?  Why do you have to search my car?  Why are my kids being followed around?  And this has happened plenty of times.  And since all this has been occurring — just to let you know, because my son is Lexis Figuereo — so, just to let you guys know, I’m watching you guys all the time.  That there’s been a few times that people have followed behind my son.  Why are lights — big bright lights — coming on his face, like you guys can’t see standing at a light, when he’s at a lamp post, to see who he is?  Y’all have to put a spotlight on him like he’s that daggon dark you can’t see out there and he’s under the light and he’s not, because he’s [indiscernible].  So I don’t understand why he gets harassed.  And he’s been getting harassed more and more.  And I’m telling all of you guys, to be on the lookout because I tell you, if anything happens to any of my children — are y’all hearing me?  You’re all going down.

Chandler Hickenbottom: And that’s a fact.

Nedra Hickenbottom: Because if anything happens to any one of my children because they’re speaking up for their rights as an American, mind you.  Okay?  My forefathers were here even before some of my other ones were here because I’m part Native American.  So when something happens to any of my children, I’m going to be down there on all you guys so fast.  So you better start watching for my son and not harassing my son.  Don’t come rolling up on my son.  He’s almost gotten ran off the road since then, now.  He’s getting all these different messages from people saying harassing things to him because he’s just trying to make this place a better place that we all live in.  So you guys need to be very careful.  And you need to watch about this black-on-black stuff that happened right outside the police station just the other day.  And you need to investigate.

Chandler Hickenbottom: Not only that, you also need to make sure you take down my name and my sister’s name, because I’m telling you right now, she’s not playing with you.  So my name is Chandler Hickenbottom.  You’ve probably seen me in the papers and on the news.  My sister’s name is Patrice Figuereo.  Same last name as my brother.  And I’m telling you right now we are coming for you guys because we want answers.  We want to know what’s happening with the budget, we want to know everything.  Next meeting, you need to have people here that are going to be able to prosecute the police, that are going to answer our questions.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s a waste of our time, honestly.  It really is a waste of our time that you’re sitting here, you want us to have a conversation with you, you want to answer questions, and you’re not answering anything.  You’re just skating past all the questions and it’s ridiculous.  It’s a rehearsed line, and it’s ridiculous.  And you can shrug your shoulders, but it is.  Every line that you are saying to us is rehearsed.  And it’s ridiculous.

Robin Dalton: I just want to interrupt for a minute and say that I hear your anger and frustration loud and clear and I’m happy that you’re expressing it.  All I can say is that this was for me to listen and understand concerns and come up with answers collectively with you together.  I do not have the answers right now.  I know that.  I need to understand the problem before I can come up with the answer-

Chandler Hickenbottom: You know what the problem is though. 

Robin Dalton: -and I understand the problem by having conversations like this one and hearing from people like you.  And all I can say is that I am sincere in my effort to try to fix the problems I’m hearing and do better as a Police Department, but I can only do that if we can work together.  And so I hope you are willing to do that with me and continue this dialog so we can turn the dialog and the anger and the frustration into something positive, into something productive, and have this be a community where everyone feels safe to live and work and visit.  

Nedra Hickenbottom: And they should be able to.  I shouldn’t have to send-

Robin Dalton: Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Nedra Hickenbottom: – my kid out of the house and worry about them getting pulled over by your policemen for no reason because they’re Black.

Robin Dalton: Listen, I do not want to live in a community where anyone says that about their children, especially someone who is Black.  I do not want that in this community.  And I promise, I will do my absolute best to take this issue and address it and move it forward so you live in a community that you feel safe in, that you feel your children are safe in.

Nedra Hickenbottom: Okay.  Well, I’m going to keep you to it.  

Robin Dalton: You should keep me to it.

Nedra Hickenbottom: I’m going to hold you to it.  And everybody else in that room.

Robin Dalton: I expect you to keep me to it.  

Nedra Hickenbottom: Everybody else in that room that heard my voice.

Chandler Hickenbottom: Everybody that’s being silent right now.  And what I want right now is for you to go back to my brother who has some very great things to say.  

Robin Dalton: Okay, is he back on the call?  Because we also have- we have a lot of people on that have questions, comments-

Chandler Hickenbottom: Yes, I understand that.  Everyone is giving them his time.  If you’ve looked in the comments, most people have said that they want to give away their time to him.

Robin Dalton: So, just so you know, I am, honestly- I am, like, probably ten feet from the computer.  That’s the only way we could get all three of us on, so I can’t see the comments, but if you want to go back to Lexis, I’m happy to hear from him again.

Chandler Hickenbottom: Thank you.

Nedra Hickenbottom: Thank you.

Robin Dalton: You’re welcome.  Thank you.  

Lisa: Do you see him?

Robin Dalton: Lexis, we’re looking for you.

Lexis Figuereo: Do you see me?  Can you hear me?  

Robins Dalton: Yes, we can hear you.

Lexis Figuereo: Like my shirt?  Black Lives Matter.  Yes.

Robin Dalton: Yes.

Lexis Figuereo: Yes.  What are you doing to show that you are supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement?  What have you done?  I haven’t seen any banners anywhere in town, I haven’t seen any flags saying that you support the Black Lives Matter Movement and that the Black people have just as much rights as anybody else and that you care about that.  That’s easy things to do.  A lot of cities have done it.  A lot of cities have painted the streets.  A lot of cities have done a lot of things.  That’s just fluff.  I don’t even care about that, but that’s just a sign of even caring at all.  You don’t even get that.  I haven’t gotten that yet.  But, yeah, I’m-

Robin Dalton: There is actually, just-

Lexis Figuereo: Nope.  Can I finish?  Can I finish?  Is that the Chief of Police right there?  Who is that?  Who is up there?

Chief Crooks: Yep.

Lexis Figuereo: You are very silent, Chief.  You have nothing to say about these police issues that we’re talking about?  You are the head of police, right?  She’s over you, but you are the head of the police, right?  You’re the boss, right?  You’re the boss.  So when these cops are doing these things to these Black young men, and you’re doing nothing about it, you should be held accountable as well as the officers that are doing these things.  I have heard of three cases now that have happened in the last week since my protest that have been nothing but disgusting from your department.  You have harmed people.  I have heard you have forced people to get adrenaline shots that were a little bit intoxicated.  I have all the pictures and the facts of everything.  They both have complaints on you right now.  You know about them.  It happened Wednesday night.  A complaint on you guys as well as Schenectady Police Department because both departments abused this young man.  And what are you doing?  Like I said, you’re not doing anything to do the policies.  You’re not- you don’t have to tell me what policy you’re doing right now, but what you can tell me is what you’re going to do.  You should be able to tell me, like, “Hey people are doing this, we’re going to fire some people.  We’re going to fire some people.  We’re going to go through this, we’re going to do some investigations, we’re going to see what’s going on.”  It’s not- you don’t have to figure out what the problem is, you been know what the problem is.  The problem has been forever.  The problem has been that your police treat Black people like they are nothing.  And that’s that.  And just the other night, and that was yesterday actually, when I was on Caroline Street, right in front of Dango’s, two of your officers, two with their trucks, came by me, flashed their high beams on me.  I walked up to the officer, asked him why he had the high beams on me and he said that he couldn’t see me, said that I wasn’t walking in the crosswalk at one o’clock in the morning.  There is no crosswalk right there.  I was walking across from D’Andrea’s over to Dango’s to have myself a beverage.  So, once again, I should be able to do that.  I work at Solevo, I’m one of the only Black servers/bartenders, so you’ve seen me before, I’m sure.  I’m the only one.  I’m the only one.  So, the fact that you act like you didn’t know me, once again, just shows that you are playing games with these people.  And the fact that the Chief has nothing to say about his officers doing what they’re doing to me and what my mother said what she said, you still didn’t say anything.  You’re sitting there in silence.  Silence.  What do you got to say, Chief?  Let’s say something.  You wanted to meet- you wanted to meet with me in person.  That’s what you said in front of the people.

Chief Crooks: Will you give me a minute to talk?  

Lexis Figuereo: Yep, let’s go.

Chief Crooks: First of all, I didn’t want to interrupt you.  I was letting you speak.

Lexis Figuereo: Perfect.  Perfect.

Chief Crooks: Secondly, I had Lieutenant Seals(?) has reached out to you [indiscernible] to have a conversation with me, because you were busy.  You admit it.  

Lexis Figuereo: You did.  You did.

Chief Crooks: [indiscernible] didn’t tell me what’s happening, and hear your point of view on it.  The whole point of this conversation today is to listen, okay?  Anybody who is treated unfairly, they can make a complaint within the department.  You’re referring to an incident that occurred the other day before use of force got mentioned earlier.  We already have an investigation going on with that incident.

Lexis Figuereo: I know.  An internal investigation, right?  And internal investigation.  See, that’s the problem.  I don’t want just an internal investigation because your internal investigations, you guys are compl-

Robin Dalton: Lexis-

Lexis Figuereo: -you guys-

Robin Dalton: I’m going to-

Lexis Figuereo: -When you mur-

Robin Dalton: I’m going to interrupt you for a second.

Lexis Figuereo: – when you [indiscernible].  No.  No.  When you murdered him-

Robin Dalton: No, no, no, listen.  Because we-

Lexis Figuereo: -No. You guys [indiscernible] murdered-

Robin Dalton: -We’d like to see a lot-

Lexis Figuereo: -No.  No.  He was murdered-

Robin Dalton: -I just want you to-

Lexis Figuereo: – See?

Robin Dalton: – finish your thought, okay?

Lexis Figuereo: When you murdered Darryl Mount, when you guys murdered Darryl Mount, and that’s another thing, at the protest, I asked some of the inspectors or detectives that were at the thing, I asked him — and I actually have his name and badge number and everything else if you need that as well — I asked him, “What happened with Darryl?  Why did you guys do this?”  And he said, “Why did he run?”  That’s what your officer said.  He didn’t say, “I can’t talk about the case,” he said, “Why did he run?”  And then he tried to intimidate me and told me that I should be scared of the police.  I told him that [Darryl] was scared.  [The officer] said, “You guys should be scared of us.”  And I said, “I have no reason to be scared of you.”  And that’s recorded.  I put that on Facebook.  Everybody’s seen all these things.  Once again, we’re in the social media world right now.  You have seen these things.  You guys know.  Stop acting like you’re unaware of these things.  These complaints have been going on, this is not the first time — not because of George Floyd — that’s not the only reason this has been going on.  I’ve been treated like this since the 90’s.  From the same department.  So make a change and stop saying you don’t know what the problem is.  The problem is your police.  And also how you guys are using your funds.  Stop using your funds for horses.  Don’t have horses up there.  What do you need horses for?  There’s nothing going on in this town.  You’re on horses and there’s no crime here, alright.  You just said there hasn’t been a shooting since the 90’s.  There’s no crimes!  So don’t worry about having that many police officers on as well.  And the other day, yes, the State Troopers were there, the New Y- the State Police were there, the Park-

Robin Dalton: [indiscernible]

Lexis Figuereo: –No, I’m talking.  The Park Police were there.  SSPD were there, and the Saratoga Springs Sherifs.  So why did you need that many people?  Twenty-one officers.  I have everything on videotape.  Everything on videotape.  And your officers also tried to intimidate me when I was there as well because your officers have been trying to intimidate me since the thing’s been going on.  You guys all know who I am.  I been all over the news and the newspapers and everything else.  You know who I am.  You’ve seen me, I’ve been in the middle of the street.  You’ve seen me-

Robin Dalton: Lexis, listen.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen.  I’m going to stop you.

Lexis Figuereo: -having this meeting because of me.

Robin Dalton: Listen.  I just need you to listen to me for a second.  You obviously have a lot of talk- a lot to talk about.  There is a lot of issues being touched on that I want to address.  We have 15 other people here who want to talk.   What I want to do is invite you to come in and have a conversation with us.  We can Facebook Live the whole thing, we can make it public, we’ll do whatever you want, but you need to come in to continue this conversation with us.  I need to move on, however, and get to the other 15 people who have been waiting for an hour and 15 minutes to say something.  So, thank you for joining us, thank you for your comments, I hear your anger, I hear your frustration.

[Lexis is muted.  He can be seen speaking directly to his camera.  It looks like he is saying, “Can I say something?  Can I say one more word?”]

Robin Dalton: And let’s continue the conversation, okay?

[It looks like Lexis says one last time, “Can I say one more word?” before realizing he’s been muted.  He waves to the camera.  It looks like he says, “Okay.”]

Broadway Project Raises Preservation Foundation Concerns; News Articles on Developer Disturbing

Bob and Gerard Moser of Prime Group Holdings are proposing a mixed use development for 269 Broadway.

Location of Proposed Mixed Use Building

The Saratoga Spring Preservation Foundation has expressed reservations regarding the project. This is a link to their website where there is a rendering of what it would look like.

Here is a link to their letter to the Planning Board and Design Review Board. They indicate that its scale and design are inconsistent with the location.

News Articles Raises Troubling Questions About The Developer.

Bob Moser who is identified as the owner of Morgan RV Resorts lives here in Saratoga Springs. His company Prime Group Holdings has offices in the Wise Building on Railroad Place.

As best as I can tell, Morgan RV Resorts, of which he was a principal, had offices here in Saratoga Springs on Putnam Street but seems to no longer exist. A google search produced this:

It appears that Morgan RV Resorts evolved into Morgan Vacation Resorts.

According to Seacoast On Line:

…Morgan RV Resorts of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a business now called Morgan Recreation Vacations at its online website, morganrvresorts.com. In court records, Flagg’s is listed as a Delaware company, and in 2007, was among seven campgrounds Morgan used as collateral toward a $38 million loan from Countrywide Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc.

April 3, 2013

A Google search for Morgan Recreation Vacations did not produce a site.

When I attempted to access http://www.morganrvresorts.com I retrieved a page that stated:


Forbidden

You don’t have permission to access this resource.


I did find a number of articles searching “Morgan RV Resorts Litigation.”

Among the stories of Morgan RV Resorts legal problems was a story regarding litigation brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakly in 2011 against the company.

Here is a link to an August 24, 2011 story in the Saratogian.

Beginning in 2011 Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakly sued Morgan RV Resorts that had offices on Putnam Street here in Saratoga Springs. Coakley told the Cape Cod Times:

“This company took advantage of elderly customers and retirees who invested a significant amount of money in their homes.”

“It is difficult to believe that any business would try to strong arm people who worked and saved their entire lives so they could enjoy their golden years.”

Cape Code Times June 7, 2012

Here are links to two stories detailing the litigation and resulting settlement. Here and here.

This is a link to a similar case involving the company in York, Maine. In this story Mr. Moses responds directly.

Board of Supervisors Internal Investigation Reveals What A Culture of Self Dealing Cannot Hide

The internal report from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors entitled “Covid Pandemic Compensation” is out and it makes pretty good reading.

The report was crafted by a subcommittee of the County’s Human Resources & Insurance committee and was established to “investigate the decision making, implementation and communication of compensation during the Covid pandemic.” The authors are the same people who were responsible for the pay bonus fiasco so my expectations were quite low. In effect, the suspects were charged with determining their own culpability. The names will mean little to most people but for the record they are Supervisors Jack Lawler (R, Waterford), Alan Grattidge (R, Charlton), and Bill Peck (R, Northumberland).

While the report does not address key underlying issues about mismanagement, it nevertheless admits to errors while downplaying their importance or excusing them as unintentional.

The following are to me most interesting aspects of the report:

Supervisors Outraged and Surprised Over Raises? They knew all along.

I previously reported that in spite of Saratoga Supervisors Tara Gaston’s and Matt Veitch’s apparent outrage over the time and a half raises granted to “essential” county employees in the early days of the pandemic, the minutes of the key meetings and the text of the resolution documented that they in fact knew about them and knowingly voted to delegate the authority to implement them to a special committee. What I did not know was that in addition, prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting where the vote took place, the County Administrator, Spencer Hellwig, had sent the Supervisors an email that explicitly advised that the county was going to increases the salaries for employees by one and a half times. Here is the email.

Who Needs A Board Of Superviors? It turns out that the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Instituted The Raises On His Own.

According to the report, on Sunday March 15 Chairman Preston Allen (R, Day) met with County Administrator Spencer Hellwig. It was decided that Allen would declare a State of Emergency for Saratoga County. The report states that “On Sunday, 3/15 Chairman Allen and Mr. Hellwig agree to implement the 1 1/2 rate compensation plan under the authority of the forthcoming Emergency Declaration.”

The next day, without authorization from anyone beyond themselves, Hellwig convenes an emergency meeting. “…at that time all department heads were told that all essential staff reporting to work would receive 1 1/2 times compensation for staffing purposes.” The report notes, “This is the first documented official statement to department heads on the issue of compensation.

In a case of extreme irony the report goes on to note “Also on the agenda was the instruction to reduce expenses.”

It was at this point that Hellwig sent out the email (above) advising the Supervisors that the county would be operating “at a reduced staffing level” effective March 16 and those working would be granted the one and a half times pay raise.

The authors of the internal report appear oblivious to questions, aside from the legality, of whether it is prudent for one person to assume the authority to establish a State of Emergency, implement a major reduction of staffing levels, and grant huge raises to those employees of the county still reporting to work.

That is correct, Chairman Preston Allen decided he would declare an emergency and then exercised his authority to grant massive pay raises.

Who Needs A Board of Supervisors? Like King Lear, they gave up their power.

Just to make things crystal clear that they were relinquishing their management responsibilities, the Supervisors, including Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch, passed a resolution that delegated authority to a five person committee to determine future staffing at the county along with the salaries. The report documents how the resolution the Board of Supervisors passed established a committee comprised of the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the Vice Chair, the Personnel and Insurance Committee Chair, the County Administrator and the Director of Human Resources.

In the introduction to the report the authors offer that “…for ease of reference this committee will be referred to as the Covid Committee.”

So the committee that was determining what the staffing of our county would be and what the compensation for county employees would be was so cavalierly instituted that it did not even have a name.

The authors of the report do not acknowledge that there was even an issue about wisdom of delegating this kind of authority to a committee of the Board of Supervisors.

Open Meetings Law? Who Cares?

In an earlier post I reported that I contacted the New York State Committee on Open Government who confirmed that because it was authorized to enact material decisions this new committee established by the Board was required to adhere to the Open Meetings Law.

Based on this report it appears that the Covid Committee failed to notify the public of any of its meetings, and it failed to make the meetings accessible to the public either by allowing attendance or broadcasting its meetings.

Apparently not only did the committee fail to post its minutes, it appears it didn’t even keep minutes. [JK: I am assuming that since the appendix of documents for this report included the minutes of two meetings of the full Board of Supervisors and the minutes of Law and Finance Committee, the lack of minutes of the “COVID Committee” was because there were none.]

Early on I emailed Supervisor Lawler, one of the authors of this report regarding the violation of the open meeting law. He wrote back that he would explore my concern and get back to me. He never got back to me. He was aware of the issue but obviously disregarded it as relevant to the investigation.

It is illegal to grant raises to elected officials: Who Cares?

Under New York State Municipal Law it is illegal to grant raises to elected officials during their current terms of office.

Nevertheless among those granted a time and a half raise by the “Covid committee” was the elected County Sherriff and the elected County District Attorney. The authors of the report acknowledge that municipal law barred these raises. What is lacking is any discussion as to how such a blunder could have been allowed to happen. It is not unreasonable to ask whether Mr. Dorsey, the County Attorney, failed to properly review the plan or whether Hellwig and Allen never requested his review.

Communications? A Matter Of Chance

The report chronicles chaos.

To their credit, the authors of this report honestly document that the county failed to provide many employees with information about the granting of the bonuses, the termination of the bonuses, and the clawing back of the bonuses.

It reports that on March 19, 2020, at 4:34 PM (yes, now they are very precise), Chad Cooke, Spencer Hellwig’s deputy, sent out an email to all department heads advising them that 1 1/2 times raises will continue for all employees reporting to work.

“At approximately 5:30 PM (a little less precise), one hour after Mr. Cooke’s email, the COVID Committee meets and eliminates 1 1/2 compensation for all essential staff other that those in the Command Center. Chad Cooke was unaware of this decision and therefore did not send a correction to his email that same day.”

“It was not until days later later that Mr. Cooke became aware of the Covid Committee’s decision to amend the plan.”

Bear in mind that Mr. Cooke is Mr. Hellwig’s deputy and that Mr. Hellwig was a member of the COVID committee and presumably attended the 5:30 PM meeting.

Again from the report:

“Another example of miscommunication was Mr. Hellwig’s 3/25 email to Supervisor Schopf erroneously advising him that all essential employees reporting to work were continuing to receive 1 1/2 compensation. Mr. Hellwig acknowledged the error in his subcommittee interview and attributed the error to the stress of the moment.

The report includes the substance of an interview done by the authors of the report with County Administrator Hellwig, H.R. Director Marcy McNamara, and her deputy, Adam Kinowski (the son of Stillwater supervisor Ed Kinowski).

The authors report:

“While neither Mr. Hellwig nor Ms. McNamara could recall the specific date and circumstances, it was approximately on this date that the County Administrator, in consultation with the Covid Committee, directed HR to reclaim all 1 1/2 compensation that had been paid to Department and Deputy Department Heads, elected officials, employees of the County Administrator’s office and employees appointed by local law.”

It is very hard to make sense out of this. They could not remember when or how this decision was made, but it was somehow done in “consultation” with the COVID Committee– whatever that means. One would think a decision such as this would require a formal vote by the committee, but once again there seem to be no minutes of their meetings and thus no written record of how and by whom this decision was made.

According to the report, Marcy McNamara then informed the heads of the three unions that would be affected by their decision. She didn’t bother to notify all the other employees who work for the county. This would include all the non-union employees of which there are apparently many.

An innocent might expect that if the Human Resources Department was going to dock significant moneys from employees checks that they would send out a notice to all employees advising them of this. It does not seem prudent to simply rely on the heads of the unions to get this information out for such an important notice. While the report sees no problem with notifying union employees by speaking to each union’s representative, it did concede that all the other people should have been informed as well.

The report chronicles interviews with a number of department heads in which they relate that the first notification of the docking of pay occurred when they looked at their checks.

“Ms. Haggen (the Saratoga County D.A.) said that she had no advance notice that the county would be reclaiming the 1 1/2 compensation paid to department heads and deputy department heads in the paycheck received on 4/9.”

Drew Blumenberg, the head of the Public Defenders’ Department told the committee, “He further stated that he was surprised, but not upset, that the additional 1 1/2 compensation was subsequently reclaimed in his next paycheck on 4/9.” “Mr. Blumenberg stated that he was not informed that the funds would be reclaimed from his paycheck.

“Mr. Bayle (director of the Probation Department) said that he had no prior knowledge that 1 1/2 compensation received in his 3/26 paycheck would be subsequently reclaimed from his 4/9 paycheck and was surprised to see that it had been done.”

There are more similar stories but I think this covers it.

Essential Workers? For The County A Meaningless Term

Previously I quoted from an email that County Administrator Hellwig sent to all Supervisors prior to the controversial full board meeting that authorized the establishment of the so-called Covid Committee. He wrote:

“I would add that this action will come with time and a half pay for essential staff.”

The report never really clarifies what was meant by the term “essential staff” but in reading this report it appears to have meant those who were physically coming into work.

While Spencer Hellwig assured the authors of this report that the county continually monitored to insure the proper people were paid, the reader will pardon my skepticism. Many employees continued to work for the county remotely, some I assume worked from home but had to go into their offices from time to time. Given the documented failure to properly inform employees of the terms of the bonuses it appears unclear (improbable?) whether a rigorous system was established to distinguish those employees reporting physically to work and those working remotely.

This skepticism is reinforced by the debacle that occurred when H.R. Director Marcy McNamara was asked to provide just a list of who was receiving time and a half in the “Command Center”.

The report states:

“At this meeting the Committee also discussed a request from Supervisors for a list of employees receiving 1 1/2 compensation. Per Ms. McNamara, that request had not been met due to ongoing difficulties is (sic) securing copies of the daily sign in sheet for employees working in the Command Center and the payroll coding used for employees working in the command center.”

So, one might ask, what system existed for distinguishing employees working from home with those who report to work? How did H.R. handle those staff who predominantly worked remotely but sometimes came on site?

The Amazing Power Of Marcy MacNamara, the county Human Resources Director

The COVID Committee meets on March 19 as public backlash develops over the time and a half compensation plan.

At that meeting the committee reverses its decision on raises and restricts these raises to just the Command Center. The committee “…directs Ms. McNamara to consider alternatives to 1 1/2 compensation and to discuss those alternatives with union representatives.”

“Ms. McNamara telephoned the union representatives to advise them that 1 1/2 was ending effective 3/19/20 and to discuss 4 hours of PT (personal time) for each day an essential employee reported for work. This information was not immediately communicated to the BOS (Board of Supervisors).”

It is not clear whether the PT was to be granted retroactively to cover the days that had been compensated with time and a half. It is also not clear whether this benefit is still in effect and if so for whom.

On March 25 the COVID Committee meets and “reaffirms” the decision to pay the “Command Center” 1 1/2 times compensation and the other employees the 4 hours per day personal time.

The authors own analysis of Ms. McNamara’s role is instructive.

In the FAQ section they asked: When and By Whom Was the Decision Made to Offer PT (personal time) to all essential staff?

The answer:

The subcommittee’s interview with members of the Covid-19 Committee indicates the decision to consider alternative compensation in lieu of 1 1/2 compensation was made by the committee at their initial meeting of 3/19. The committee directed Ms. McNamara to consider and discuss alternatives with the union representatives.

Report

Consider and discuss alternatives? Does that sound to the reader like a decision? I think this question and answer pretty much sums up the vacuum that existed in terms of thoughtful and carefully planned action. Petty details about whether personal time for a bonus was appropriate and if so, how much was apparently something that could be delegated to Marcy McNamara. I don’t call that either a decision or the answer to the FAQ question.

Putting In Perspective The Personal Time bonuses

County employees work a thirty-five hour week. So if they show up to work they are granted more than half a work day in time off as a bonus under the new compensation plan adopted by the Covid Committee. I would call that a huge bonus. I guess the logic was that rather than the additional half of their pay, they are getting an additional half of their work day in time off instead.

On April 8 the Covid Committee switches the Command Center staff from time and a half compensation to the daily four hours of PT .

The report includes a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It explicitly addresses the question “When exactly did the 1 1/2 compensation end?” Conspicuously missing is the question of when did the personal time benefit end or has it?

As far as I can determine most of the employees in the “command center” are still receiving this benefit.

One has to wonder what the impact on overtime may be in the future to meet the county’s staffing needs? An employee appearing for work (that is the standard– not completing a days work) during the twenty-two week days in the month of April would be eligible to take eleven days off in the future in addition to whatever personal, sick, vacation days they are already entitled to.

If they showed up for work every day for the months of May and June as well, on July 1 they would have accrued thirty-three personal days. That calculates to six and a half weeks of additional time off.

It adds up.

H.R. Director Attempts To Explain Her False Claim That The State and Other Municipalities Were Paying Time and A Half To Essential Employees

At the March 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors Law and Finance Committee, Marcy McNamara was asked whether the state and other municipalities were paying time and a half to essential employees. She told the Board that yes they were.

The report attempts to explain this misinformation as follows:

Ms. McNamara specifically mentioned during the meeting that the City of Saratoga Springs and the Towns of Milton, Greenfield, and Wilton were planning to offer 1 1/2 compensation. Ms. McNamara responded that there was a miscommunication with Mayor Kelly and Administrator Hellwig. She said that she was apparently unclear in her question regarding plans to pay 1 1/2 compensation. She intended to ask if these municipalities were intending to pay 1 1/2 for every hour worked and now realizes that the responses she received were 1 1/2 rate would be paid for overtime. Ms. McNamara did point out that Washington County, Delaware County and Wayne County approved a 1 1/2 compensation plan and the town of Wilton did the same for some highway employees.”

Supervisor Report

So coincidentally, all four municipalities misunderstood her and thought she was simply asking about their regular overtime policy? Apparently the authors of the report didn’t see the need to pursue her confusion about New York State employees who she also incorrectly stated were receiving time and a half extra pay.

Supervisor Kusnierz, the person who asked Ms. McNamara the original question about the state and other municipalities, called for Ms. McNamara to resign at the March 27, 2020, Board of Supervisors meeting.

Interestingly, in the supporting documents to the report is an email exchange involving Kusnierz and McNamara.

Ms. McNamara wrote to the Board on March 26 (the day before Kusnierz called for her to resign) that any requests directed to the Human Resources Department by Kusnierz now be addressed to the County Administrator, the County Board Chair, or the County Attorney. She notes, “I have never made a request like this during my professional career.”

She assert that:

Supervisor Kusnierz has been extremely offensive and retaliatory during our recent conversations.

The issue of “additional pay” is not as simple as it would seem on its face. In addition to labor relations, there are numerous State and Federal regulations that need to be considered. We have been adjusting the payroll daily to balance these factors.

I value my relationship with all of you and am available whenever to discuss the details. You can reach me in my office or at anytime on my cell phone.

Marcy McNamara

Not to be out done, Supervisor Kusnierz, responded to her:

As a separate matter, since you brought up your job performance in relation to COVID19, I would be happy to discuss your job performance prior to the outbreak as well with any and all.

Regards,

Todd

Supervisor Kusnierz

An interesting note about Ms. McNamara is that she has hired two sons of sitting Supervisors as her deputy during her tenure

The Saratoga County Deputy Sheriffs’ Police Benevolent Association Declines to Play

One of the supporting documents to the report is an email from the consulting agency representing the county’s sheriffs.

He asserts that:

The statement that this union was advised that the time and a half rate of compensation for all hours worked by members of this union would cease on March 19th, 2020 is factually incorrect.

Secondly, on advice from our counsel, we respectfully decline the invitation to discuss COVID19 labor management relations for purposes of an internal investigation due to potential litigation arising out of this issue. We will consider providing that information if, and when, requested by the outside counsel/investigation of E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy LLC.

Dan Sisto, Kairos Consulting LLC

It is interesting that they summarily dismiss cooperating with the “internal investigation” but are open to cooperating with the “independent investigation.”

The Authors of the Report Do Make Some Recommendations

  1. Meeting minutes of all committee and subcommittee meetings should be kept contemporaneously during the meeting to clearly document proceedings and actions taken.

I assume this substantiates my assumption that the Covid Committee did not bother to keep minutes and under scrutiny Allen, Hellwig, et al had to reconstruct what they thought happened.

With respect, what does it say that the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator needed to be urged to implement something like this.

2. The County Administrator, in consultation with the HR Committee, should create procedures for communicating with all county employees during emergencies.

Again, does the County Administrator really need to be told this as a recommendation?

3. HR took responsibility for payroll from the Treasurers Office in March 2019. Through the interviews the subcommittee noted confusion regarding payroll practice. The subcommittee recommends that consideration be given to training the HR Director, the Deputy Director, and appropriate staff on best practices and payroll laws.

Again, does the Human Resources Director of an organization the size of our county need to be made aware of this need?

4. The subcommittee takes no position on the disposition of the issue, but does recommend that the BOS consider what, if any, actions it should take regarding the failure to comunicate the decision to reclaim 1 1/2 compensation from department and deputy department heads. It should be noted that every department head interviewed indicated that they did not want this extra compensation.

One of the items missing from this report is an explicit identification of who was responsible for the failure to properly notify the employees. It seems axiomatic that the Director of Human Resources was culpable and some might well include the County Administrator.

For an “internal investigation” the lack of identifying who should be accountable seems like a glaring omission.

No One Will Be Held Accountable

I always find it amusing when self described conservatives rail about the permissiveness of liberals but when it comes to disciplining their own their standards go into free fall.

This was a massive, self inflicted, debacle. One might find some sympathy for someone like Marcy McNamara who was apparently totally over her head in trying to cope with all of this. I have to feel less sympathetic, however, knowing that she has twice hired the sons of Supervisors as her deputies suggesting that she is in this position more because she is smart enough to engage in crude patronage rather than because she is a competent administrator who hires staff based on merit.

Is it any wonder how badly administered our county is when this kind of self dealing is business as usual?

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For those of you who find this all hard to believe here is a link to the full report.