[JK:I received this release from SUCCESS]
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, members of SUCCESS urged the Mayor and Commissioners to establish a specific process to ensure that the $20,000 in taxpayers’ money that will go to the Charter Review Committee is spent strictly according to state regulations.
SUCCESS is a non-partisan group established in 2006 that supports Saratoga Springs’ commission form of government.
State law requires that the city provide funds to the Charter Review Committee. These funds are to be spent only to educate voters about their charter proposal. Importantly, taxpayer funds may not be spent to advocate for the passage of the charter referendum.
At several Charter Review Committee meetings, however, there has been:
*confusion about what could be considered educational and eligible for public funding and what would be considered advocacy and need to be paid for with private funds.
*pushback by some members of the committee who felt they should be able to use taxpayer money to advocate for their city manager charter proposal despite the state law prohibition.
*a political type marketing plan handed out by Vice Chair Pat Kane entitled the “Budget for Marketing/Campaign for Saratoga Springs Ballot Referendum.” This campaign included a list of possible materials and activities the committee might consider in what he described as essentially a political campaign. Included on the list were items such as bumper stickers, t-shirts, lawn signs, and robo calls.
SUCCESS reminded the City Council that in 2006 Commissioner of Accounts John Franck and then Commissioner of Finance Matt McCabe refused to pay for a “Voter’s Guide” sent out by the charter committee that year. John Franck called the piece “nothing more than a propaganda piece.” In the end, a member of that charter committee had to pay for the mailing.
SUCCESS handed the City Council members copies of newspaper articles from 2006 that described why the “Guide” was not paid for with city funds. The articles indicated that the so-called “mailgate” materials were forwarded to the US Postal Inspector, the FBI ,and the New York State Comptroller for review.
In the recent Saratogian article covering Tuesday night’s meeting, [“Spa City group urges officials to eye charter committee spending”] Professor Bob Turner, Chair of the Charter Review Committee, suggested the Council had refused to pay for the 2006 mailer merely because they “didn’t like the tone.” Yet the mailer contained such phrases as “If the proposal passes, we will have — at long last — a government with true checks and balances.”
SUCCESS believes all parties involved would prefer to avoid what happened in 2006. We therefore call upon the City Council to
- Establish and communicate a specific process to evaluate Charter Review Committee materials that will be paid for with public dollars before they are printed or distributed to potential voters.
- Make clear who on the Charter Review Committee will be responsible for paying for efforts that are determined by the City Council to be advocacy.