Commissioner Mathiesen Reader’s View On Yepsen And Hospital

[From May 1, 2016 Saratogian]

To the editor,

After reading an open letter to the community from Mayor Yepsen regarding her recusal from the Saratoga Hospital’s Morgan Street project zoning application, there are a number of points raised that I feel should be addressed.

Much to the credit of Mayor Yepsen and the other four members of the City Council and as she stated in her letter, the Council did amend the Ethics Code (Local Law No. 2,2015). And yes, the mayor does appoint members to the Ethics Committee. The Ethics code states in paragraph 13-3 I ‘Officers and/or employees (of the City)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 creates an implied conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of his (or her) official duties or results in personal gain’.

In March of this year and much to my surprise, I was presented with information which showed that Mayor Yepsen had been soliciting, negotiating for and promising to accept work for the Saratoga Hospital Foundation during the time that Saratoga Hospital was seeking zoning changes for a new project. Plans for the Hospital’s professional building on Morgan Street had been actively presented to the City at least since last August. Mayor Yepsen began negotiating for a contract as a private consultant for the Hospital Foundation beginning in October. Since October, the Mayor and the Foundation had a number of discussions about her private contract until Thursday, January 14 when the Foundation declared that they were no longer interested in pursuing that relationship.

In my opinion, Mayor Yepsen has violated Ethics Code paragraph 13-3 I. The Mayor should have understood the explicit guidance provided by the recently passed Ethics Code update She should have refrained from seeking a private contract from a business entity that was actively engaged with the City for an action that she knew would ultimately require her vote. At the very least, she should have publicly declared her potential business relationship when the Hospital presented their proposal to the Council and when public hearings and discussions occurred on December 1, December 15, and January 5. It was not until the January 19 Council meeting, five days after the Hospital Foundation informed the Mayor that THEY would not continue to negotiate with the Mayor because doing so could be seen as a conflict of interest, that the Mayor (and Commissioner Franck) announced the recusal.

The Mayor decided to recuse only after the reason for doing so no longer existed. This brings up the possible allegation that the last minute recusal could have been in retribution for the Hospital Foundation’s refusal to grant her private contract. The two recusals have brought the Hospital’s zoning application to a screeching halt. Had she been up-front about her Hospital Foundation negotiations, all of this could have been avoided. This is truly a lesson in the importance of transparency when in public office. Hopefully this will serve as a valuable learning experience for all involved.

Chris Mathiesen  Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety

9 thoughts on “Commissioner Mathiesen Reader’s View On Yepsen And Hospital”

  1. This brings up the possible allegation that the last minute recusal could have been in retribution for the Hospital Foundation’s refusal to grant her private contract.

    Commissioner Mathiesen what part of the ethics code, the city code or any law states that retribution is a violation?

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    1. Paula,
      Just to be clear, a public official using political power against a private entity or citizen for a perceived transgression against the official in their private capacity is not acceptable in any first world country. The reason it is not in the SS Ethics Code is because the Code generally proscribes solicitation of work where a conflict of interest may arise, and for obvious reasons thus does get into whether, if an official does solicit such work, they can use their power to stonewall any business the entity or citizen with the city if their advances are subsequently rejected. This is not a close “judgment call,” but rather Ethics 101.

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      1. This is the way it works, there is retribution all the time. The city employees are not trying to do the right thing they are trying to figure out what the commissioners want them to do so that they do not get fired. The Mayor has absolutely used the building inspector to crash projects that are not in her interests, so has Commissioner of Public works used the city engineer. Ask Steve Ethier and Sonny Banachio about the difficulty they have had with DPW and the city engineer at the direction of commissioner of DPW.

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  2. Ok she’s clearly violated the ethics codes….now what??…..what’s the penalty??…..Who investigates??,Who decides??…..if nothing,then lets move on Council!

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  3. Honestly, this all sounds to me that when the hospital found out she wouldn’t play ball they backed out. the hospital was trying to play her for her vote. the only retribution was the hospital reneging on their job offer when they found out she wasn’t gonna vote.

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    1. One problem………she sought them!…that dog has already hunted,she should have never put herself in that position…the hospital didn’t put her there,there is NO accountability here the Mayor walks…no humor here!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting that Dr. Mathieson is speaking out on this. Making political hay for himself, at the Mayor’s expense. That’s a dangerous game. He might better keep better tuned-in to his own office…..and Deputy. Things aren’t so peachy there either. That department needs a boss, and I don’t mean the Chiefs.

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