I received an email from Pat Kane [See full text at end of this post] in response to a comment that was posted on the blog as part of the discussion of the city’s payroll system. A commenter had challenged Mr. Kane’s description of the time and personnel involved in doing payroll and noted that Florence Wheeler, the fulltime person who does payroll, had not been interviewed by the Charter Commission.
In response Mr. Kane wrote:
“Yes Christine G-brown [JK:She is the city director of finance] was interviewed and stated that she dedicates 2 days a week to payroll. Mrs Brown is the Director of Finance and highest paid employee in the Finance Department. She also started (sic) in the same interview that conflicts amounts (sic) the 5 Commissioner (sic) impacts 50% of her work days.”
These are quite serious allegations so I emailed back to Pat that I would need to confirm the comments he attributed to Ms. Gillmette-Brown with her.
Gillmet-Brown, a registered Republican, was originally hired by Democrat Ken Klotz when he was Commissioner of Finance to serve as his Deputy. When the city created the position of Director of Finance as a civil service position she was hired to do that job. Since then she has served under Finance Commissioners from both parties. One of the reasons I felt the need to confirm the comments attributed to her is that they seemed entirely out of character. Ms. Gillmet-Brown has always maintained a very low profile. She has done a superb job and, in the spirit of a civil service, has eschewed anything not directly involved with her work. Mr. Kane, by publically referencing her comments, was involving Ms. Gillmett-Brown in a highly heated controversy. I felt this required making sure that he was accurately reporting her position.
Here is my correspondence with Mr. Kane:
On Aug 31, 2017, at 9:11 AM, John Kaufmann <> wrote:
I want to confirm with the Director of Finance the statements you attribute to her before posting your comment. Ms. Gillmette-Brown is on holiday so it will have to wait until Tuesday.
On Aug 31, 2017, at 12:19 PM, Patrick Kane < > wrote:
I am happy have you check with her.That would be the right thing to do everyday. I wish you would have called any of us to fact check Michele’s statements.
Many of the claims she made about the CRC were bogus.
Waiting until Next Tuesday is more suppression than fact checking.
She testified in front of The Sub Committee chaired by Matt Jones.
In the Music Hall. CRC members in attendance were Matt, me, Ann Bullock, Jeff A [JK:Altamari], and I believe Beth Wurtmann was in attendance.
Additionally, testimony Christine provided to us.
Her answer to us was that she spends two days a week on payroll.
She also stated that has to deal with the political bickering amongst departments and commissioners
I asked how much of your time is spent dealing with the bickering?
50%? “that is accurate.”
We were shocked that she would speak out like this knowing that she works for Michele.
But actually do not bother going through with the effort. You are posting many people’s submissions with obvious falsehoods and if my word is not good enough then so be it.
I will continue to monitor your blog to help supply facts.
But once again you censor my comments and let everyone else just fly through.
On Aug 31, 2017, at 12:27 PM, John Kaufmann < > wrote:
This comment and you are by no means the first for holding up a comment to fact check. —————————————————————————————————————————————–
From: Patrick Kane <email@example.com>
Date: August 31, 2017 at 12:47:32 PM EDT
To: John Kaufmann <john.kaufmann> Cc: Jeff Altamari < >, Gordon Boyd < > Subject: Re: Finance Director- John Kaufman 2
Selective at best not the general rule.
I was able to get comments from two other people who were at the meeting Mr. Kane described: Commission member Matt Jones who chaired the meeting and, although she was on vacation, Ms. Gillmett-Brown also responded.
Mr. Jones told me that it had been quite some time since the interview and his memory was a little sketchy. He was, however, quite sure that Ms. Gillmett-Brown had offered no percentages regarding how much time she spent dealing with political conflicts between commissioners and departments. He observed that it would have been no revelation that such conflicts occurred, but that he would have remembered if she had said that half of her work time was spent dealing with such disputes.
Noting again how long it had been since the meeting, he could not recall the specifics of a discussion involving how much time Ms. Gillmett-Brown devoted to payroll. He regretted that there was no recording of the meeting to which he could turn.
Ms. Gillmett-Brown, however, was quite emphatic that Mr. Kane’s account of her statements to the committee were untrue. She asserted that half her time is not devoted to addressing problems related to conflicts between Commissioners. She was also very clear that she does not spend two days a week on payroll. She said she spends about thirty minutes.
She also noted that she waited a long time to be interviewed by the committee but her actual conversation with them lasted only about 5 minutes. She offered to return to meet with them again but they never contacted her. Ms Gillmett-Brown is the Director of Finance and as such oversees the payroll system. She would have been one of the best people to give Charter Commission members an in depth look at how payroll is handled in city hall.
I have noted before in this blog that I appreciate Pat Kane’s dedication to the city. He believes passionately that adopting the proposed charter will significantly reduce the cost of city government and improve services. Memory is a funny thing. I find it possible that Mr. Kane believes his description of Ms. Gillmett-Brown’s testimony.
Readers will have to make up their own minds as to what occurred in the interview.
[Pat Kane’s original comment]
My data about the county information came from 2 high ranking elected officials.
Let start with my comment about staff using two days each week. Yes Christine G-brown was interviewed and stated that she dedicates 2 days a week to payroll. Mrs Brown is the Director of Finance and highest paid employee in the Finance Department. She also started in the same interview that conflicts amounts the 5 Commissioner impacts 50% of her work days. [My emphasis added]
We attempted to interview as many tenured employees as possible. Most declined for fear of retribution in the workplace.
Saratoga County has eliminated paper checks. The county employees without checking accounts are giving a card similar to debit card for their pay.
Saratoga County government is a much larger organization and the officials I spoke with are very proud of the progress the county staff and employees have made to modernize their processes.
I believe that modernization will solve many of these issues in all departments.
You are right, the form of governance does not solve all of the issues. The important question is
Should a 50 million dollar operation be as efficient and effective as possible?
The current form of governmence has been in place for 102 years and for many of those years doing a good job.
But we can do better given the right circumstances.
The light bulb was not invented because the candle broke.
This not experimental surgery. This a proven solution to outdated governmental operations. 65% of cities our size using Council manager and the rest use strong Mayor.
Have a nice day.