Saratoga Hospital Trashes Mayor Yepsen

Saratoga Today published a front page story this week in which documents released by Saratoga Hospital raise serious questions about Mayor Joanne Yepsen’s recusals regarding their PUD applications.

Saratoga Hospital has been frustrated in their attempt to secure a Planned Unit Development approval for an office complex they wish to build near their main buildings.  As a result of a legal challenge by the neighbors who abut their proposed project, a vote of at least four members of the City Council is required to secure the PUD.  Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner John Franck have recused themselves claiming conflicts of interest.

According to the documents, Mayor Yepsen introduced Saratoga Hospital’s application for a PUD for their proposed offices on her agenda at the August 18 meeting of the City Council.  In October Mayor Yepsen began corresponding and meeting with representatives of the hospital to explore how her consulting firm might provide services for the hospital.   In January the hospital wrote to her that they were no longer interested in pursuing contracting her services citing the potential conflict of interest that such an arrangement might entail.   This was communicated to her in correspondence on January 14 and January 15 of this year.

At the January 19 meeting of the City Council (only four days later) when the Council was to take up action on the PUD, Mayor Yepsen announced that she had been in talks with the hospital about doing work for them and was therefore recusing herself from any participation in any discussions or votes related to the matter.   For some unknown reason, she did not reveal that Saratoga Hospital had formally notified her that they would not be pursuing business with her while she was mayor.

On April 12th, Commissioner Skip Scirocco submitted the documents to the City’s Ethics Board requesting an inquiry.  The Ethics Board went into executive session and no further information is available on their deliberations.

It is very troubling that with Saratoga Hospital’s proposal before the Council that Mayor Yepsen would enter into negotiations with the hospital.  It is puzzling that she would then recuse herself from the PUD when there was no longer any possibility of a contract.

I sent the Mayor a note advising her about this story and offered to print her response verbatim on my blog.  I am publishing her response below.

It is very much worth exploring Saratoga Hospital’s actions in this matter.

According to Saratoga Today:

This correspondence has been verified by an official from Saratoga Hospital, who stated, ‘…we are aware that these documents might someday reach the media.’ The packet was originally sent by Amy V. Raimo, Vice President for Community Engagement and Executive Director of The Saratoga Hospital on March 1, in a response to a January 30 request for information letter from Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan to President and CEO of Saratoga Hospital, Angelo Calbone.” 

As someone who has been heavily involved in seeking documents from a variety of institutions I found Saratoga Hospital’s role in this story of great interest.

Saratoga Hospital is a private not-for-profit institution that is not subject to the open meetings law and therefore not subject to Freedom of Information requests.  My experience with institutions like Saratoga Hospital is that they jealously control information.  Their release of this information, especially in light of its highly political and damaging character is extremely unusual.

I am also struck by the documents that they released.  I have included the documents in this post.  Readers will note that there are documents that cite Joane Yepsen’s apparent failure to provide a writing sample as part of what the hospital required in order to contract with her in spite of repeated requests. The release of this information which seems to be unrelated to the recusal issues strikes me as unusual.

It is also worth noting that Commissioner Michele Madigan is cited as having made the request for the documents.  Commissioner Skip Scirocco is cited as having submitted them to the Ethics Board.  The story does not explain how Mr. Scirocco was brought into this matter.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.  Attorney Matthew Jones has spoken twice before the Council at hearings about changing the City’s Comprehensive Plan to preclude the hospital PUD.  Mr. Jones has repeatedly expressed frustration over the inability of the hospital to pursue their PUD in light of the lack of the necessary quorum to decide the matter.  He has repeated that the hospital simply wants a vote on the matter and that once there is a vote that the hospital will accept the decision.

Should Mayor Yepsen decide not to recuse herself then there would be the quorum that Mr. Jones and the hospital have been seeking.  The problem is that if Commissioner Mathiesen continues his opposition to the PUD, although there will be a quorum, the hospital will lack the four votes they need for adoption.  If the hospital and Mr. Jones are true to their word, the PUD will finally be dead.

There is also the irony that members of the Council may recues themselves, according to the city’s code of ethics, if they feel they cannot be impartial.  I would say that whatever the merits of Mayor Yepsen’s behavior in all of this, it would be perfectly understandable if she admitted to sufficient anger toward the hospital that it was impossible to be impartial.


From: Joanne Yepsen [jdittesyep01@aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, April 17, 2016 12:16 PM
To: john.kaufmann21@gmail.com
Subject: Re: Heads Up

Dear John,

I am planning a full comprehensive response to the “story” you cite and will send you a copy.  The article lacked an honest review of all the facts. If I had had the chance to respond or even make a statement prior to going to press, — the story had already been printed at the time I was first contacted by the paper late Thursday afternoon — (I will forward you the email first received from Arthur), the public would have had the full story on both the ethics process and the rezoning request.

Thanks,
Joanne


The Documents


 

 

 

Hospital Correspondence-1

Hospital Correspondence-2

 

 

Hospital Correspondence-3

Hospital Correspondence-4

Hospital Correspondence-5Hospital Correspondence-6

Hospital Correspondence-7

Hospital Correspondence-9Hospital Correspondence-10

YepsenMemoReNewEthicsDecision

YepsenTellsNoContract

 

37 thoughts on “Saratoga Hospital Trashes Mayor Yepsen”

  1. John, another funny missing part of this ridiculous, political, sour grapes attack is that Chad Beatty, Editor of Saratoga Today, failed to disclose that he is on the Saratoga Hospital Foundation Board. In the end, a person’s right to recuse is a personal one.

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      1. Actually no. A representatives right to recuse is heavily supported legally. If for some reason a candidate feels they cannot be unbiased they must recuse. You may not agree with her reasons but it’s her legal and ethical right. Candidates do get themselves into. Trouble when they don’t recuse but should, and furthermore fail to disclose prior relationships. But clearly that is not what happened here.

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    1. ABM: Even the hospital says there was no prior relationship. They told her twice ‘no’ BECAUSE she is the mayor. While she has the right to recuse, she does NOT have the right REFUSE. And that appears to be exactly what she did: refuse to do her duties she was elected to do, and sworn to do.

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  2. It is important to note here that as bad as the recusal appears to be, the MAIN issue is that it’s apparent from the supporting documents that what happened is a CLEAR violation of the ethics code.

    Section 13-3 subsection I of the Code of Ethics reads: “Outside Employer or Business. Officers and or employees shall not engage in, solicit, negotiate for or promise to accept work for an outside employer or business who does business with the City which create an implied conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of his official duties or results in personal gain”.

    While no money was involved here, it does NOT have to change hands for a violation to occur. Note the words “engage in, solicit or negotiate for’, as they are key here.

    But let’s take this a bit further here too. In the PREVIOUS edition of Saratoga Today, the mayor was actively engaging with the press on the VERY SAME TOPIC that she had already recused on. In that article, the mayor states that she ‘believes it’s possible to work things out’ on the issue. This begs the question: HOW can that happen because she has already recused herself from this issue (along with Com. Franck), which makes it IMPOSSIBLE to do with only three votes on the council. It is a ‘dead issue’ BECAUSE of her recusal. And the hospital lost 300k because of this decision to recuse (I can’t post the article here, but certainly would if I could. It was the front page headline in the Apr. 8-14 issue of the Saratoga Today).

    One other important note here is this: Unless I am mistaken here, the ethics board was appointed by our current mayor, and according to her stated that she should recuse from this issue. Does anyone else see a serious issue there in itself?

    I ask you to please read the supporting documentation to get YOUR opinion on whether this is, indeed, a violation of the code of ethics. From everything I have seen to date, it is without a doubt.

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    1. i think all of those are fair statements…
      the notion that this is somehow sour grapes, is ridiculous and a lame dismissal of the issue…
      the first question should be… why did the mayor feel it was a responsible use of her position as mayor, to seek out financial gains by from this group? it was totally irresponsible…not only did/does she put the project in jeopardy by doing so, but she also put herself under the microscope of impropriety and people have questions as to her motivations. Did she recuse herself afterwards to kill the project after they turned her down for employment, as retribution for not hiring her??? there are a myriad of ethical questions which arise from throwing herself into the mix.

      while it is nice to wonder why the other commissioners are involved, i think it is fair to point out, these are the wrong questions to be asking…the mayor has placed everyone else under a high level of scrutiny and it is fair for her to be held to those same standards as well..she did not provide the ethics board with all of the correspondences, and everyone knows it. she withheld the information from the hospital where they told her they were not interested in doing business with her, but she then used that as the excuse, anyway.. this is the reason why these documents have been pursued and released…she jammed the hospital and then withheld information as to the recusal…there is no need for her recusal, in my opinion she simply did not want to vote against the hospital or be publicly against the various members of her transition team, by voting for it.. and honestly, now considering we got a warning about this, the day of the meeting..really raises eyebrows…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in complete agreement with dmorris and Mark on this one,I think the outcome should be that she is cited by The Ethics Board….. this is very disturbing and begs the question “what else is going on”? I lost all confidence with this sorry five!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merlin: This is one specific council member, not all five. Three made the decision to look into an obviously ‘fishy’ decision by the mayor. They should be applauded for that decision, not berated as it shows honesty and integrity within our local government.

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      1. Sorry dave in my opinion this is a sorry group and the list is long and believe me it will get longer!…when the ethic committee does it’s job then I’ll applaud!

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    2. Merlin: you miss a VERY important point here…. What if the ethics committee does NOT do it’s job (understand here that it is comprised of the mayor’s hand picked appointees)? That is a BIG concern to me, and especially since we have heard NOTHING since the last ethics board meeting.

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      1. Like I said when the ethics board does it’s job.. and if they don’t then whom or who on the council will object?? I’ll wait….due diligence is needed here.

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      2. Dave, a point of clarification. The members of the ethics board have staggered terms. The sitting mayor appoints one member per year. No more than 2 members of the 5-member board may be a member of one political party. The chair and, I believe, one other member originally were appointed by Mayor Johnson.

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  4. John, you are missing the big picture. The hospital files an application to expand, the mayor – who will have to vote on the issue – then tries to get them to “hire” her for “consulting work”. It is clear that she approached them for financial gain on her part when she was one of 5 council members that had a say in their plans for the future. The conclusion here is obvious but so awful no one seems to be able to admit it or say it out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The mayor tried to get paid by the hospital when they were asking the city to let them do something. Thats all there is to it. That stinks more than a rotting fish in the noonday sun. All this other stuff is a distraction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yepsen should be “sufficiently angry” with the hospital, are you kidding me, the Hosputal should be “sufficently angry” Mayor Yepsen. It looks to me like she brought this whole thing on herself. She wanted a job, while the Hospital needed a vote from her. Didn’t provide the Hospital with what they needed to evaluate her skills. They tell her no. Then she recused at the 11th hour. Looks suspicious to me. What did the Hospital do? They got screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rick Fenton–the current chair of the Ethics Committee, Justin Hogan, was originally appointed by Mayor Johnson but was recently re-appointed by Mayor Yepsen. Also you said “no more than 2 members can be of the same party”? Have you misstated this or does the 5th member then have to be WFP or Independence Party? Doesn’t sound right.

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    1. Yes, the code of ethics is clear about membership. No more than 2 from any party. There could be 2 WFP members, 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Etc.

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      1. Rick–I looked up the city code–Chapter 13. There are 5 members on the Ethics Board but the 5th member is a city officer or employee. The code reads “At any given time, no more than two Ethics Board members may be registered in the same political party, except that this requirement shall not apply to the City officer or employee.” So you are not quite correct.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Rick Fenton: You miss my point here: why hasn’t the ethics board said anything? It’s VERY possible that they did NOT have all of the info when the mayor met with them, OR that something is VERY ‘fishy’ here. No matter how you look at it, there is a serious problem there as well (as well, the mayor(s) appoints the ethics board, and yes it is staggered).

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      1. The board of ethics indeed operates with the information available to them. When the board receives a request for an advisory opinion, the information they get comes from the person making the request. While it is tempting to assume that board members appointed by a sitting mayor will be sympathetic to her interests, I can assure you that during my 5 years on the board, we always operated impartially. Most on the board had little political involvement, and were motivated by the satisfaction of serving an important community need. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to convince people of that, if they are inclined to be skeptical. Those who support the person who is the subject of an inquiry will cite partisan motives for a decision that goes against her, and vice versa.

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      2. Rick Fenton: Then why have council members been waiting over three months now for a response from the ethics board? I am NOT saying they are guilty of anything here, but rather something is VERY fishy about it when it’s all laid out in front of you. There should have been a response by now!

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  8. Rick Fenton: this issue was just discussed at the city council table. Com. Mathiesen stated that ALL members of the ethics board were appointed by the current mayor. And please note: two council members

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  9. And Chris mathiesen has never been wrong? Stop drinking the kool aid. Chris mathiesen is a good man whose heart is in the right place, but he spoke several untruths and unfactual statements last night.

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  10. Well d,tit for tat here…..yepsen is guilty no question but scirocco waived a million dollars in water connection fees and never told anybody, Council or General public and now he’s worried about somebodies’ ethics,in my opinion they should all go……a weak press is fueling this corruption!

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    1. Merlin: I have foiled ALL of those papers in question. You could not be further from the truth on this one. This was done WAYYYY before Skip took office, and the papers Mark posted were proof thereof. You believed the hype – not the FACTS!!!

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      1. Sorry d,any waving of fees was always brought to the light of the City Council,your boy got caught and he still hasn’t informed the PUBLIC about losing the lawsuit another 1.4 million gone.

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    2. Agreed, a weak press is fueling the corruption. A weak ethics committee is also fueling the corruption. The ethics committee is nothing more than a paper tiger with no teeth.

      Liked by 1 person

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