Mayor Appoints Judges As Expected

As anticipated in my earlier blog, Mayor Yepsen appointed sitting Judge Jeff Wait to a ten year term as city judge and Francine Vero of the law firm Harris Beach to serve out Judge Wait’s current term.  This may be a little confusing to readers.  The New York State Office of Court Administration upgraded what had been a part time city judge position held by James Doern to a full time position in 2014.  Mr. Doern who had served the city for fifteen years as a part time judge was transitioned into the full time position.  Apparently, Mayor Yepsen has the authority to replace Judge Doern.  I believe that the position Judge Doern held was for ten years.  By appointing Judge Wait to the new judgeship the mayor spares Judge Wait having to run next November.  Ms. Vero, having been appointed to complete Judge Wait’s current appointment, will run next November.  The loser in all of this will be James Doern.

 Wendy Liberatore reported both appointments in today’s Times Union along with what I would characterize as the usual politician blah-blah about how great a choice Ms. Vero is.  Ms. Vero may very well be an excellent attorney for the job but it is unfortunate that Ms. Liberatore left out significant and less flattering aspects of this story.  There is of course the maneuvers as noted above.  There is also the role that Harris Beach played in representing the Mayor before the Ethics Board and the City Council.  As readers may recall Mayor Yepsen was found by the Ethics Board to have violated the city’s ethics code.  Harris Beach first argued before the Ethics Board that the Mayor had not violated the code.  They then crafted a memo to the Council that they did not have the authority to censure the mayor.

 

 

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Mayor Appoints Judges As Expected”

    1. You have this right! Someone really needs to ask the Mayor what was discussed in the many closed door meetings she had with Wait and what she got from him for this appointment? Hmmmm!

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  1. Hey Merlin– Ever notice that emails are never answered from the mayor’s office…not since Gale was there, anyway. It’s so pathetic. And John Glen is dead and buried and the flags on city hall are still at half mast and a shambles. They should be ashamed of themselves. Oh, wait, they have no shame. Sorry (sigh). Carry on. -JC

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    1. Yes,it’s unbelievable what she gets away with…read todays saratogian and then read the gazette..same article two different writers one’s on the moon the other is on earth and Yepsen wants more money….ABSOLUTELY THE WORST MAYOR IN THE HISTORY OF THIS CITY!

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      1. I beg to differ. In 1919, Mayor Harry E. Pettee disappeared along with $300,000 of city funds. Neither he nor the money were ever found. Then there’s Mayor Addison Mallery who oversaw the destruction the both the United States and Grand Union Hotels. And how about Mayors James E. Benton and Arthur J. Kearney who presided over the “urban renewal” movement if the 1960s, a smoke-screen which effectively drove the African American population out of town and destroyed an entire neighborhood and culture. Finally, how quickly you forget Mayor Scott Johnson, an unrepentant back-room dealer and the developers’ best friend.

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    1. So maybe not the worst but certainly the most unethical in recent history – or maybe just so arrogant as to believe the public won’t care (or maybe remember) or just not smart enough to actually hide her behavior. As I also asked in prior post – has anyone looked into what all (many) those closed door meetings between her and Wait (in her office in City Hall) were all about. As someone here said PAY TO PLAY! What does she now owe Wait?

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  2. A new Gazette article:

    https://dailygazette.com/article/2016/12/29/saratoga-mayor-replaces-city-judge

    Note to Joseph Levy: The hotels were beyond saving from what I had always been told. I agree COMPLETELY on the urban renewal however, which was the real starting point for our city’s housing problems. Please understand this however: a BIG part of this city’s comeback was because of the development we did. Obviously Pettee was the worst – but there’s still time for Joanne to catch him. Honestly I don’t know how anyone can believe anything she says now. I really need to meet with her on affordable housing again, but why bother? Her word is worth NOTHING to me at this point. Regardless if she is the worst mayor or not, it’s quite clear at this point that she has gotta go – and the sooner the better.

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  3. Hi John, Happy New Year!
    As one who pointed out when Mayor Yepsen overreached from an ethical standpoint on the Hospital recusal and related items, I have to be fair and say that I really don’t see what the big issue is here. I may be missing something, but this is an appointment that the Mayor makes, and it is not surprising that she chose someone like Ms. Vero. It would be one thing if you could say if Ms. Vero was unqualified, but that is clearly not the case. The fact that she worked for a firm that represented the Mayor makes no difference. In fact, Harris Beach has done work for the city under previous administrations where the Mayor was not a Democrat. Also, Ms. Vero, to my knowledge did not handle, or have involvement in, representing the Mayor in her ethics violation request.

    What you are seeing is partisan politics at work, not dissimilar to the way previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have done things before. I recall well that when Jasper Nolan ran the County Republican party, it was a well-known fact that you had better be a registered elephant to have any hope of obtaining a job with the County.

    Do two wrongs make a right? Absolutely not. But the problem lies perhaps with the system, not the office holder. I would expect that a Republican Mayor would act the same way. I admit it doesn’t look great, but Ms. Vero’s performance as judge will determine whether this is a good or bad appointment. Judge Doern is rightfully lauded by many for his service, and he can run in the next election – perhaps he will. Like I said, I might be missing something, and I’m certainly willing to listen, but so far I have read or seen nothing that tells me that there is anything wrong with the Mayor’s actions here.

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    1. Arthur,

      Re: ” Also, Ms. Vero, to my knowledge did not handle, or have involvement in, representing the Mayor in her ethics violation request.”

      One word for you: “FOIL”. And I’ll bet you that I’m right.

      Further, Re: ” The fact that she worked for a firm that represented the Mayor makes no difference.”

      It ABSOLUTELY does if said judge helped keep said mayor on her ethics violation defense while ‘we the taxpayers’ paid for it!!!

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    2. Arthur, You of all people know that perception is a large part of people’s reality. Based on her already questionable ethical behaviors both that which was clearly determined to be unethical and that which certainly might qualify if examined closely you’d think she might want to avoid any possible interpretation. And, it’s not as if Judge Doern is not imminently qualified. This Mayor does very little just because it’s right but rather “what’s in it for her”. Add that to her appointment of Wait in light of a very cozy relationship they have had – holding numerous closed door meetings in her office. If it smells fishy……

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      1. D+C: We really have no disagreement here… there’s definitely political self-interest motivating the maneuvers here, and it is plain for all to see. My point is not that it was politics in action, but this is a legitimate move. In chess, if you can move your queen and get a better board, you do it – just make sure you look both ways, so to speak… From a public relations standpoint, definitely not the best way to go. For sure. But absolutely within any Mayor’s purview, in this case.

        Let’s take it out a different door: Who would you have picked? How about Matt Jones? Think about it: reaching across the aisle, attorney for both Saratoga Hospital and Saratoga National… hmmm… Of course, some people would say that this would be politically motivated, so you can’t win. Reason #1852 why I would never be crazy enough to run for office. {Though i would accept a judicial appointment if anyone’s listening}… In the meantime, good luck to Judge Vero.

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  4. I always thought that the United States Hotel burned down.
    And as long as bombs are being dropped on former Mayors of Saratoga Springs, how about Ellsworth Jones? Our beloved Convention Hall burned in 1965, and what did we get to replace it? The City Center. It took almost 20 years to decide what to do, it never got rebuilt. Yes, people can point to the success of the CC, but Saratogians still miss the old Hall.
    Agree about the Urban Renewal. Much was lost.

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    1. Henry37: Yes, the United States hotel burned down in the 40’s. Both of those hotels were just outdated badly by that time: no plumbing, central heat, ect., and were considered fire hazards (I believe I heard one had WOODEN fire escapes and ropes!). No one wanted to save it because it would be so costly to update it to a ‘modern’ standard.

      Hard to blame Mayor Jones here however. The City Center has proven to be an economic engine that keeps our city going year round now rather than just in the summer. I sure wish they would have added something akin to the old Convention Hall however. A 5000 seat indoor venue would be a big plus here without a doubt!

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      1. Now your talking, Dave! Especially the 5000-seater… The only possible way we would see this now is if Skidmore decided to go Division 1 like Siena. A nice thought but I don’t see it happening, unfortunately.

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      2. The Racino talked about it at one time, but I haven’t heard anything about it since. I could see it working here easily (and especially given the condition of the GF civic center lately).

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      3. No, the United States Hotel didn’t burn — it was torn down in 1945. C.V. Whitney offered to buy and save the Grand Union Hotel, but the owners became greedy and raised the price beyond reason, so he backed-out. It was then demolished in 1953.

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      4. I stand corrected. The first couple of sources I found say the United States Hotel burned down in the 40’s, but many others say it was demolished in either ’45-46! Thank you for teaching me something new today!

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    2. Arthur – Perhaps appointing Judge Doern to continue to do the excellent job he has provided this city for many years would have been appropriate and certainly less controversial. Add to that, unless it’s proven to me in writing I don’t have a reason to believe Ms. Vero did not advise her on her legal issues.

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      1. You know what? I will ask around and let everyone know what I find… I doubt I will get anything in writing, but you never know… At the end of the day, I’m not sure the answer really matters. I won’t rehash my POV, except to add that I doubt that this is some sort of ‘payback’: The Mayor lost her case, so it wasn’t a great moment in Harris Beach history, and I hope that the $12,000 bill wasn’t after a ‘Mayoral Discount’ – nearly everyone said the bill was way too high (it was) for what was done… Obviously, we disagree on this. I agree that reappointing Judge Doern would have been ‘safer,’ but sometimes things are just what they appear to be: political power, patronage, and hardball. Mayor Yepsen is not the first to do this, nor will she be the last. Again, none of this diminishes Judge Vero’s qualifications.

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  5. We were both sort of correct about the demise of the U S Hotel. There were two U S Hotels. The first U S Hotel was built in 1824 and it burned down in 1865. Then the second U S Hotel was razed in 1945-46. According to reliable source.

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      1. We can certainly agree on that as well. Honesty means a lot to me. I can throw political differences aside for honesty because our current system (the “5 Heads”) balances those differences. It’s a BIG reason why I don’t want a mayor here getting more power than the rest of the council (although I’ll go on record as a ‘yes’ for a city manager position, but that would work and report to and for ALL council members, not just the mayor).

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    1. Appointing this women from this law firm who has done business with this Mayor’s Office is a red flag at the very least..Yepsen has put down a down payment with this firm,it’s called influence didn’t cost her a dime….”All for one….one for all”?

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      1. Merlin – I agree! While I won’t contest Vero’s qualifications as I simply don’t know her or her work, I will question that she had nothing to do with the Mayor’s ethical defense. Based on the recent Schenectady Gazette article

        “According to Harris Beach LLC’s website, Vero focuses on business and commercial litigation. She works in municipalities and local agencies. She has experience handling contract disputes, business disputes, business torts and more. She’s also been involved with government compliance and enforcement matters.”

        This description is exactly the type of case the Mayor hired Harris Beach to work for her. Do we really believe, then that Ms. Vero was in no way involved.

        This is not to say that Ms. Vero is not qualified in her area of specialty yet she does not seem to hold experience in the types of cases that will come in front of this court such as domestic violence, homelessness and substance use disorder issues. Based on that and the fact as I’ve heard it that a committee – put together by the mayor – had an opposing recommendation just further leads to questions as to her motivation.

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  6. I’ve also just recently have someone mention that it is very possible that Ms. Vero worked on the Mayor’s campaign. I don’t know this for sure but might be something someone might want to look into. Any possibility she also made a donation to the campaign. Unfortunately based on the history of this mayor, my suspicions are easy to develop.

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    1. So shocking that political allies are rewarded with appointments. So corrupt. Meetings with Wait to settle Knicks office pool. So suspicious. Vero jumping ship from failing law firm. So sad. Should have appointed Judge Judy. BIG FAIL. #JudgeJudy #JudgeCrater #JudgeReinhold

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