Deputies: Challenging Charter Commission’s Prejudices

This week Finance Commissioner Madigan announced the appointment of a new deputy, Michael Sharp.  This is one of the five deputy positions that would be eliminated if the proposed charter is adopted this November.

“All five of those deputies are going to be removed, and we’re not going to have political patronage appointments for City Council members anymore” Charter Commission Chairman Bob Turner told the Gazette.

So for Mr. Turner and his Commission the deputies are “political appointments” with all the negative connotations associated with that term. In their view, apparently, the deputies are not hired based on qualifications and their ability to do the job, but the result of some dubious, politically motivated award. These individuals are thus seen as simply political operatives whose contribution to the actual management of their respective city departments is marginal. This explains the Commission’s assumption that they can eliminate all five deputy positions along with the four commissioners and replace them all with one City Manager and perhaps a deputy. The Charter Commission did not even bother to interview any past or present deputies.

I respectfully disagree with these assumptions about the deputy positions.

While one can argue that over the years there has occasionally been a dismal deputy appointment, either they and/or the Commissioner who has appointed them has not survived for long. The role of the deputies in fact is so important that problems arising from having the wrong person in that position have become obvious to the voters and the Commissioner has paid at the ballot box.

Even a cursory review of Mr. Sharp’s credentials (see attached press release on his appointment) makes it clear that he is highly qualified for the Deputy of Finance position which entails essentially drafting the city’s budget. Ms. Bachner, who previously served as deputy had a law degree and served under Finance Commissioners McCabe and Madigan with incredible skill and dedication. The level of ability of these deputies is not unique in city hall.  Saratoga enjoys some really fine people in the deputy positions who put in endless hours to oversee the functioning of their departments.

These positions are more accurately viewed as “management confidential”. Deputies do not enjoy the protections of civil service.  There is good reason for this which is fundamental to good management. Their performance is so critical to the proper running of their respective departments that should they prove unsuitable, they need to be removed with all speed.

I’m afraid that Mr. Turner and his Commission’s desire to construct a government free of the disagreements and competing interests that they disdainfully refer to as “politics” has made it difficult for them to grasp the role that deputies currently play in city government and thus plan for how their work will be done under the new structure they are proposing.


MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT
July 5, 2017

Commissioner of Finance, Michele Madigan Telephone:  (518) 587-3550 ext 2577 Email:  michele.madigan@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan Announces the Appointment of Michael Sharp as Deputy Commissioner of Finance

 

Saratoga Springs, NY – Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced today the appointment of Mike Sharp as Deputy Commissioner of Finance for the City of Saratoga Springs effective July 10. 2017.

Mike was an Investment Associate at Siguler Guff, a private equity firm headquartered in Manhattan that has over $11 billion of assets under management.  As a member of Siguler Guff’s Distressed Opportunities Funds platform Mike was the primary contact for 16 fund investments that represented over $1 billion of committed capital, and he focused on researching and managing investment opportunities across geographies, sectors, and asset classes.  Mike initially joined Siguler Guff as an Operations Analyst in 2009, and was promoted to the Investment Team in 2012. 

 

Prior to his work at Siguler Guff, Mike worked at Merrill Lynch and Wachovia in a variety of financial roles.  Mike has degrees from Marist College in Accounting and Business and a dual concentration graduate degree from Fordham Graduate School of Business in Finance and Media & Communications.  Mike is married to Katie and the father of a two year old son named Leo.    

Commissioner Madigan stated  “Mike comes to the city with a vast amount of experience working in the financial sector over the past 15 years.  The city is very fortunate to have someone with his experience step into the role of Deputy Commissioner of Finance and I look forward to working with Mike as we begin the 2018 budget season together” said Commissioner Madigan.

 

###

 

Michele Madigan

Commissioner of Finance

City of Saratoga Springs

474 Broadway

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

 

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19 thoughts on “Deputies: Challenging Charter Commission’s Prejudices”

  1. Well, if Mr. Turner and his charter commission are wrong about the work the current deputies do, and I think they are, this seriously challenges their argument that their change of government will be a money saver.
    In the document entitled “Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission 2017 Proposed City Charter Fiscal Impact Summary” which they handed out at their all day session at the City Center they state:
    “The Deputy Commissioners’ positions would be eliminated…..the largest amount of fiscal savings comes about because of this change.”

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    1. I too served on the charter commission this year. I personally interviewed 7 people who served as deputies in our commission form of government. 3 who have served in 2017 and 4 who have served in the last 3 years. Every single person would speak on the condition that their name would be left out. All current deputies or former deputies were perfectly clear in their professional opinion that The Commission Form of Government does not serve the City of Saratoga Springs in a professional manner. The most common terms used was ” constant fighting and bickering among commissioners and departments”. 6 of the 7 felt that they brought little or no professionally specific skills to the job. 5 of the 7 also stated that they had a personal relationship with the person who appointed them prior to the appointment.

      In January of 2018.
      Deputies Tenure
      The longest serving deputy will have 2 1/2 years experience. Finance deputy will have 5 months service, public safety will be brand new to the job, Public works will have 1 1/2 years, and the deputy mayor will be brand new. That average is about 1 year per deputy.
      Currently deputies have a 110,000.00 compensation package or 550,000.00 for 5 (110K per year of experience)

      Professionally trained and experienced Professional City Manager and Assistant City Manager
      The combined experience with two professional management positions will likely be 15-20 years.
      Their salary package for both will be an estimated 330,000.00 ( 16K per year of experience)
      So is 550,000.00 for 5 people with and average tenure of 1 year of on the job training, equal to 2 people with 15-20 years of professional training and experience at 330,000.00 ?
      The show will go on.
      Lets not forget that there are 400 full time employees that have been serving the public year after year regardless who is in office or who that commissioner appoints as deputy to work in their department.
      Additionally, there are 3-4 senior level employees ( non-deputies) in each department that have served in their departments longer than 15 years in their role.

      With a two year transition period, the needs of the city will be reviewed and a professionally crafted plan will be in place for a seamless transition on January 1, 2020.

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  2. Mr Sharp may be very sharp about Finance, but governmental/municipal finance is a very different ball game from Wall St.

    If he is so sharp why is he taking such a huge pay cut? He sounds like a Wall St fat cat that could not make it there.

    Once again we have someone with no experience in Municipal finances, as per the press release, leading the finance department.

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    1. Paula–you might want to look at the article about Mr. Sharp’s appointment that is in the Saratogian today which addresses some of your concerns.

      The thing is if Sharp doesn’t work out he is gone. Under the proposed charter things would not be so simple. According to the charter folks, the deputy’s duties would either be given to a civil service employee or the City Manager. In either case if the duties, which are significant, are not performed, replacing the individual would be difficult and in many cases expensive. In the case of the city manager, remember, although he/she would serve at the whim of the city council, the CM is entitled to a hearing, then there will no doubt be a severance package, and then the cost of a lengthy search for a replacement.

      Right now we have something called elections, a simple and economical way of replacing commissioners who fail to run their departments effectively.

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      1. SS:

        Look at DPW. DPW hired a business manager in a Civil Service-protected position who was a replacement for a very qualified individual that was the Director of Public Works. There was no long search. The replacement was no other than the DPW commissioner’s campaign manager from 2015.

        We are now stuck with this political hack that is tied to the Republican party for the next 30 years or more because the manager has civil service protection, qualifies for overtime at $75 per hour and is now in the pension system. His OT rate will forever increase faster than the union contract. Even at 3% the OT rate climbs at 4.5% per year or 135% over 30 years to $176 per hour.

        The current form of commission government has created the very thing you are opposed to in the city manager form but by 5 departments and 30-50 year search/severance package, together 150 to 250 times more likely to occur. There are five departments that will soon have political hacks appointed to director level position each having civil service protection for the next 30 to 50 years including the years on a pension.

        From your own words:
        “… According to the charter folks, the deputy’s duties would either be given to a civil service employee or the City Manager. In either case, if the duties, which are significant, are not performed, replacing the individual would be difficult and in many cases expensive. In the case of the city manager, remember, although he/she would serve at the whim of the city council, the CM is entitled to a hearing, then there will no doubt be a severance package, and then the cost of a lengthy search for a replacement.”

        If one commissioner and one party has figured out that they can appoint a political hack to a high-level position they all soon will. This is why legislative power, politicians, should not be in direct contact with staff, let alone embodied in the same person as the administrator. Legislators set policy. Administrators develop the means and methods to implement that policy. The Commission form of Government mixes the two together. Not good.

        It is my understanding that the Ex Director of Public Works was so pissed by this that he was collecting signatures in 2017. He decided not to submit the signatures after he had many people tell him ‘I would love to sign and see fresh blood but I am afraid of the current commissioner and what he will do to my …relative… who works for the SSFD or DPW or me when he sees my name on this petition. Too bad.

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      2. I guess I am one of the “Charter Folks” you are referencing. The City manager can be easily replaced as they serve at the pleasure of the elected city council. He/she can be replaced at any time. You are partially correct that anytime ANY city employee(including city manager) is being dismissed there must be a hearing according to NYS Civil Service.
        Where you are not correct about, all deputies serve at the pleasure of who appointed them. And only the appointing commissioner can relieve them of their duties. Only The NYS Governor can overrule a commissioner’s appointment.
        We read documented instances where a commissioner refused to fire a deputy despite being urged by the 4 remaining commissioners. So there is no easy or economical way.
        With 60 % of 2017 elected city elected positions going uncontested, a removal of deputies or replacing commissioners is unlikely.
        I would like to read your thoughts on the need for a personnel department.

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      3. The Deputies would be replace by the Department heads we have now i.e. The Police Chief , The Fire Chief, 1 of the City Engineers (DPW), a long time head of the Finance Dept. who is responsible for all the good things we have today. All these Dept. Heads are already on staff and in the right jobs, that means no extra payroll expense or benefits.

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      4. We already have the department heads on staff that will cost the City $0.00 and Save the City $70,000.00 & benifits which are usually 40% of salary X 5. Police Chief, Fire Chief, 1 of our 2 City Engineers for DPW and the Director of Finance (who is instrumental in keeping the Finance Dept. in such good condition.

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    2. Why not give him a chance before you judge. People change jobs for many reasons and many skills are transferable. After all, Commissioner Madigan make a great choice with Lynn Bachner for the last several years.

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  3. Hey Paula–
    You hit the nail square on the head; but… (please, forgive the open preposition).
    Good luck to this aspiring young lad and his family; regardless.
    “Saratoga’s a good town to get stuck in;” As the old timers were heard to say.
    -JC

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    1. The Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission spoke privately with several Deputy Commissioners as well as elected officials and city hall employees about their role. One of our members, Rob Kuczynski, was a deputy under Mayor Ken Klotz.

      Saratoga Springs City government is a large and complex operation. It has a $50 million budget and 400+ employees who provide an incredibly complex and difficult array of services. Currently, 85 percent of U.S. cities with populations greater than 2,500, have a professional manager or administrator in place who’s responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the community.
      Saratoga Springs is very UNUSUAL in that we have political appointees serving as the day to day operational managers of the departments. Under the Commission form, each Commissioner gets to hire their own personal deputy. There are no educational or experience requirements. The deputies can, and are often expected to, participate in all political activities, including the fundraising and elections of their bosses. It is a patronage appointment. The deputies serve at the political whim of their Commissioner.

      The City Manager or administrator is hired by the entire 7 member city council. He or she must have an advanced degree in public administration and 5 years of municipal experience. He or she has a strict code of ethics and is forbidden from all political activities and from participation in the election of city council members. He or she is also required to do 100 hours of continuing education/professional development per year. He or she also has access to a national network of city managers to identify best practices.

      Below is what City Hall employees told us when asked about the deputies:
      • I work with many deputies in the course of my position on a daily basis. Some deputies are easy to work with and reason with, some deputies are more difficult than others; some are unwilling to consider someone else opinion or expertise.
      • Some Deputy Commissioners/Mayors are great, some are a disaster and all about the politics, or in the case of ______ , do virtually nothing and just coast until they get enough time for retirement.
      • There is a serious lack of leadership and management skill from the top down.
      • Deputies are hired based on political loyalty, not competence. Some are good, most are not
      • Deputies though needed to carry out day to day activities vary greatly in responsibility and required skills to perform the requirements of the individual department.

      The Commission believes that one can not and should not attempt to create a government that eliminate the competing interests and politics from city affairs. However, we are attempting to separate the politics from the administration of city affairs. Snowplowing, sidewalks, hiring or contracts should be awarded based on merit and need, rather than political connections.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In an attempt to claim that the charter commission had indeed had contact with deputies before concluding that they were all essentially political hacks, Charter Commission Chairman Bob Turner now asks us to believe that they had some sort of secret meetings with “several” unnamed deputies. There seems to be no record, though, of when this happened, who was interviewed, or what was discussed. Interestingly their website contains information about interviews with past and present mayors and commissioners, department directors, and city hall employees, but nowhere is there any reference to these mysterious deputy interviews that Turner now suddenly claims took place.

        But here’s the real stunner. As further evidence that the commission had contact with deputies he states:
        “One of our members, Rob Kuczynski, was a deputy under Mayor Ken Klotz.”

        The problem is it was Rob’s father, Hank, who was Klotz’s deputy, not Rob.

        Is it really possible that Professor Turner sat through a year of meetings thinking Commission member Rob Kuczynski had been a deputy mayor, not his father. Yet that seems to be the case and is yet another troubling example of the lack of rigorousness that has been on display with this Commission’s work from the beginning and is seriously undermining their credibility. One should not confuse their litany of surveys done and interviews held with the acquisition of real knowledge and understanding about how Saratoga Springs city government works and how it could be improved.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I meant to write Rob Kuczynski’s father, Hank, was a deputy under Mayor Ken Klotz. I have known Hank and his wife Jane for 15+ years. They are both long time neighbors and friends of mine.

        Why interview the deputies privately rather than publicly? We wanted their candid and honest answers. They told us that they could not be as forthcoming in public because they would not want to embarrass their former bosses.

        We believe that the record on the process speaks for itself.
        • 35 full commission meetings, 40 subcommittee meetings, 3 town halls and public information sessions over the past 13 months
        • Interviewed 23 former and present city council members
        • Interviewed municipal experts, mayors and city managers
        • Conducted first ever survey of City Hall Employees about their perspective on how the charter affects their ability to perform their jobs.
        • Conducted survey of 182 potential city council candidates about their willingness to run for office under the current charter vs. alternative charters.
        • Conducted individual interviews with local business leaders, non profits, and consultants that work closely with the city.
        • Reviewed 30+ studies, reports, and academic articles on best practices in municipal governance and effects of form of government
        • Reviewed 15+ city charters from upstate NY and 40+ from other states
        • Reviewed Model City Charter from the National Civic League
        • Hired Robert Batson, Government Lawyer in Residence, Albany Law School, and preeminent expert on New York charter law to draft and review final charter language as well as Tony Izzo, Saratoga Springs Assistant City Attorney and legal counsel to previous charter review efforts, to review language.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think you would find that the Deputy’s attitudes and willingness to work with others is a direct reflection of the Commissioner/Mayor for whom they work. Those are the people we elect and they appoint their deputies to put forth their agenda.

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  4. Come one John, don’t take Bob Turner’s word for it. Look to history for a realistic viewpoint. Traditionally Deputies are chosen through patronage Party positions and their volunteering efforts for either that persons campaign or the party’s. That is not to say all of the Duputies have been chosen this way but it is certainly fair to claim that most historically have been.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SMH….
    Straight Shooter : “But here’s the real stunner. As further evidence that the commission had contact with deputies he states:
    “One of our members, Rob Kuczynski, was a deputy under Mayor Ken Klotz.”

    The problem is it was Rob’s father, Hank, who was Klotz’s deputy, not Rob.

    Is it really possible that Professor Turner sat through a year of meetings thinking Commission member Rob Kuczynski had been a deputy mayor, not his father….”

    Great catch, Mr. Shooter! Top-10 nominee…. Sportscenter next.

    Like

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