A Discouraging Conversation With Dr. Frank Archangelo, Chairman of the Saratoga County Community Services Board

Dr. Frank Archangelo is a local psychologist with a specialty in working with children and adolescence. I have spoken to a number of people in the field and he is well respected in his work.

I spoke to Dr. Archangelo, the head of the Community Services Board on Wednesday afternoon over the telephone.  The Community Services Board as you recall (see earlier posts) is the body designated by the NY Mental Hygiene law to have the power to hire and fire the director of the County Mental Health Department, a power they did not exercise in the case of the employment of Michael Prezioso. I raised with Dr. Archangelo the issue of the flawed process by which Dr. Prezioso was selected as Mental Health Director.  He did not challenge my understanding that it was the County Board of Supervisors not CSB which had made the final decision to hire Prezioso.  When I pointed out to him that it was the CSB’s responsibility to hire the director and that the county had usurped that duty, he said that the county attorney was doing a legal analysis.  When I suggested that the county attorney might have a conflict of interest in the matter, he asked what conflict that would be.  I said that since the attorney was employed to represent the county, his first concern would be how to protect the county in light of the apparent violation of the law.  Archangelo dismissed my concern.  I then asked him if he could explain how Spenser Hellwig and Matt Veitch could assert that the CSB had chosen Prezioso when he knew that this was not the case.  He became quite defensive, told me that was “an apparent contradiction”, and parried my question by asking why I was asking it.

I then asked him if he had any sense of when the county attorney might deliver his opinion and he said he had no idea and seemed unconcerned about the urgency of the issue.

I then asked him if he saw the fact that all three psychiatrists and several key staff had either left or were leaving shortly as an indication of serious internal problems.  He said what I was raising was a personnel matter and none of his concern.  I then noted that I had been the executive director of a not-for-profit agency and reported to a board.  I noted that in their capacity of governing the organization, the question of why staff was leaving was very much in the board’s purview.  At this point I was stunned when he told me that he and the CSB did not bare that responsibility.  I tried to point out to him that the statute under which his board was formed made it quite clear that they did.  I noted that it made no sense for the board to be the sole body to hire and fire the director and yet have no authority over the ongoing monitoring of the body.  At that point he dismissed me and hung up.

What truly shocked me was not simply his denial of his responsibilities as chair and of the board’s duty to provide rigorous oversight.  It was his open indifference to even consider that the law might actually charge him and the board with the responsibility for the clinic.

If the reader would like to see examples of how such boards are supposed to carry out their duties, check the following
websites for community service boards’ in other locations:

http://www.warrencountyny.gov/mhcs/

http://greenegovernment.com/departments/mental-health/about-us/greene-county-committees/

http://www.co.st-lawrence.ny.us/Departments/CommunityServices/CSBoardSubcommittees

http://www.clintoncountygov.com/departments/MHAS/MHAdministration.html

I expect that Dr. Archangelo had no idea when he became chairman that he would find himself in this situation.  One can only hope that he will find the courage to do the right thing.

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