Charter Commission: When Is An Interview Not An Interview?

In a hand out entitled “Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission 2017 Proposed City Charter Fiscal Impact Summary” the Commission claims “The Deputy Commissioners’ positions would be eliminated in the proposed Charter….The largest amount of fiscal savings comes about because of this change.”

In a July 10th blog  I challenged the assumption that these positions could easily be eliminated and their work assumed by the proposed City Manager who would possibly have an assistant. In that post I stated “The Charter Commission did not even bother to interview any past or present Deputies.”

On July 11, Bob Turner, Commission chair, replied “The Charter Review Commission spoke privately with several Deputy Commissioners…about their role.” He repeated this claim in the Saratogian on July 16. In a Reader’s View Turner wrote “We [the Commission] interviewed…former deputy commissioners…”

The Commission has repeatedly referenced interviews with past and present Council members, Mayors, and Directors and even secret interviews with City Hall employees, but I was pretty sure there had never been a reference to the Commission interviewing Deputies either publicly or in secret prior to Bob’s comment on July 11.

Sure enough at the June 26 meeting when the Commission formerly voted to adopt their charter draft , Commission member Matt Jones stated, “We (the commission) didn’t interview any Deputies.” Turner responds: “I interviewed two.” No one else responded.

Later Matt Jones states again “We as a Commission have not sat down and asked what is it that you (the Deputies) do all day long and can your functions be replaced, all five of you, by a city manager.”

Then came comments from Pat Kane posted on this blog claiming he too had interviewed Deputies. Specifically he claimed he “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.”

His description of the information he says he gathered in his interviews is particularly troubling. We are asked to believe that these Deputies were comfortable enough with Mr. Kane to meet with him privately and confess that they had no qualification for their jobs. He also claims that “5 of the 7 …stated they had had a personal relationship with the person who appointed them prior to the appointment.”  I think  the term “personal relationship” is a particularly loaded one and was an unfortunate phrase for him to use.

So Pat Kane allegedly gained the confidence of all these Deputies, extracted damaging personal information from them and then posted it on a blog. His claim that people made these extremely damaging statements to him in secret interviews for which there is no validation and then posting them on this blog site is not worthy of him and frankly, I don’t find his claims credible.

There is no record of either Mr. Kane’s or Mr. Turner’s interviews nor any evidence that any of the information they supposedly gathered was ever communicated to the Commission as a whole.

In spite of the lack of evidence all but two members of the Commission have supported the narrative that the Deputies (now referred to as “political” Deputies by Commission members) are expendable and easily replaced by one or maybe two people.

It seems clear that the Commission should not be confident at all that they have a firm understanding of the work the Deputies do. Yet they have hung their promise of economic savings on the assumption that the unexplored work of the Deputies is easily reassigned. A miscalculation about this could have serious financial repercussions for a new government as Matt Jones has warned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Charter Commission: When Is An Interview Not An Interview?”

  1. Thanks, John.
    Thanks for another 15-20 minutes of my life which I cannot take back.
    Flags are still at half staff on city hall…no where else are they so set; in the county, mind you.
    So, for what are the mourning?
    A city manager would set things differently, no doubt.
    Just sayin.’

    JC

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  2. The city charter did not include deputies until the 2000001 revision. when the charter commission I served on. added them to the charter. We did not put in any professional requirements and as a result some deputies have been the people who handled the election of a Commissioner. Some have been well qualified but others have not been, Currently the deputies all have equal pay for very different loads of work. This disparity in the roles of the current departments makes it important to eliminate the highly paid deputy Commissioner of Accounts. There are few employees. Public Safety may not need a deputy because the fire and police chiefs are quite competent to run their agencies under a city manager. The current very competent Director of the Budget can run the Finance department without a deputy. I am not sure of the titles in Public Works but I believe there is a Director of Public Works who has the skills to maintain the city’s public streets, water and sewage systems.

    I also believe there will be other savings if our charter is changed. I believe that the departments’ may jealously keep materials that might be shared if the Commission form is ended. Expenditures on the city can be planned so that the city council and manager know what obligations the city ;must plan for.

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    1. Margie-
      Deputy positions under the four Commissioners were included in the original Saratoga Springs Charter adopted in April of 1916. The 2001 Charter Commission you served on created an additional Deputy position for the Mayor. Apparently you and the other members of that Charter Commission felt Deputies were so important that the Mayor should have one too. The voters seemed to agree when they approved this change to the charter.
      Interestingly, you are now speculating that the Deputies can easily be eliminated and their work assumed by other existing employees.
      I’m wondering, though, if you have talked to any of the Deputies and asked them what they do. For that matter it would seem equally important to talk to the Police and Fire Chiefs and Directors of Finance and Public Works to see if they feel they could indeed absorb the jobs the Deputies do into their existing workloads. It would seem to me that you are making an assumption that, for instance, Christine Guilmette-Brown, the Director of Finance, doesn’t have enough to do, likewise the Police and Fire Chiefs.
      Without such information it would seem premature to assume that eliminating Deputy positions can result in any cost savings. As to your other assumption about departments “jealously keep[ing] materials” I would advise similarly that you try to verify this.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mr. Kane does not use his title as part of the Charter Change Commission in his post. He had private conversations as an individual with the deputies and decided to post his own thoughts and opinions. No Problem.

    Commissioner Madigan post here
    https://saratogaspringspolitics.com/2017/07/21/charter-commission-makes-wrong-turn/#comment-3944

    is signed as
    Thank you,
    Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan

    This is her official title and position about the skulduggery and how opposed she is to Chater Change.

    Thanks for another 15-20 minutes of my life which I cannot take back.
    Flags are still at half staff on city hall and there is lead in the water. This is not working and needs to change.

    Liked by 1 person

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