The August 13 edition of the Saratogian contained an article on the decision by the Saratoga Springs Ethics Board to dismiss complaints brought by Bill McTygue and Ann Bullock. McTygue and Bullock, rather than address the substance of why the Ethics Board rejected their allegations, doubled down by making even wilder accusations. It is particularly disturbing that they used the Saratogian to try to smear the character of some very good people.
Take for example the following quote from Mr. McTygue:
“Unfortunately, this decision by the City’s Ethics Board is dictated by the politics of City Hall generally, and the lack of credibility of the City Attorney specifically.”
This is reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s infamous allegation about Communist infiltration of the State Department:
“I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party…”
So, Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock, one might ask, who were these people in city hall who you accuse of conspiring to subvert the deliberations of the Ethics Board? How exactly did they suborn the Ethics Board? Did they offer some kind of incentives to the members of the Ethics Board to violate their responsibilities? I will deal with their ugly aspersion against the City Attorney below, but how exactly was he involved in this dark conspiracy? Like the alleged two hundred and five names in Joseph McCarthy’s hand, we will never know.
Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock also assert in the article:
“Therefore, based on further information we have uncovered in the development of this complaint, and because the City Attorney had already predetermined the outcome of our complaint, by his June 18 letter, we have forwarded this issue to the New York State Attorney General for further investigation and action.”
It is rather impressive how many slurs McTygue/Bullock have crammed into this paragraph. It requires parsing.
We are told that they “uncovered” even more malefactions, the details of which they apparently plan to share with the New York State Attorney General but not with the public. We must go on faith that they have the goods.
They accuse the City Attorney of predetermining the Ethics Board decision. As he is not a member of the Ethics Board nor does he function as their counsel, they do not offer any explanation as to how he exerted control over the Ethics Board.
Their “proof” is that the City Attorney wrote them a letter on June 18 (well before the Ethics Board issued its opinion) in which he laid out in some detail the fallacies in both their use of the Ethics Code and New York State Municipal Law.
The problem is that McTygue and Bullock, rather than submit their complaint on the proper forms used by the Ethics Board, made their complaint as a letter addressed to both Vince DeLeonardis, the City Attorney, and Justin Hogan, the chair of the Ethics Board.
As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Mr. DeLeonardis showed them the respect of responding to their letter. Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock conveniently leave out that they had written to Mr. DeLeonardis which logically produced a response. The cynicism of using Mr. DeLeonardis’ own letter to question his “credibility” is unfortunately representative of their modus operandi.
Then there is this assertion:
“Additionally, we have obtained further evidence of the City’s mishandling of this matter since our original complaint was filed, including the agreement between the City and Energy Now Consultants, which the City Attorney (acting as Records Access Officer) said did not exist in his response to our FOIL request of June 8, 2019.”
The response they received from the city did not come from the City Attorney, it came from the City’s FOIL officer who is Trish Bush. Accuracy is simply unimportant to these people, especially when they want to discredit Mr. DeLeonardis. More to the point they grossly misrepresent what happened by leaving out some key information.
It is true that the original FOIL response did not include the “agreement” document. Subsequent to the original response, John Franck realized that he had a copy of a document that could be considered an “agreement.” He advised Ms. Bush and Mr. DeLeonardis of this and they promptly sent Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock the document.
While it is technically true that McTygue and Bullock were advised that the document did not exist, they conveniently leave out that the document was subsequently found and sent to them. To read their characterization of what happened you would think that the city had improperly refused to provide the document and that somehow they managed to secure it on their own.
So first let’s look at their FOIL request. They requested:
“Contract/Agreement between city and energy broker referred to in minutes, City Council meeting May 21, 2019 (minutes); Letter of Authority with energy procurement broker referred to in said minutes; Letter of Exclusivity for energy procurement broker referred to in said Minutes; All Pricing options for electricity and gas presented to the city by energy procurement broker; Agreement concerning energy brokerage commission division between City and energy procurement broker”
Now Gordon Boyd had, until he sold his company, provided these broker services to the city through an agreement with the Chamber of Commerce. So he would have been familiar with the kind of documents that would have been required and the list of items in their FOIL reflected this. I expect that Mr. Boyd, a fellow White Walker, had advised them about the agreement.
What I find interesting is their further mishandling of the FOIL. In their identification as to what they are seeking they advise that descriptions of those items can be found in the minutes of the May 21, 2019 Council meeting. For example their FOIL request asks for the “Contract/Agreement between city and energy broker referred to in minutes [emphasis added], City Council meeting May 21, 2019 (minutes);”
The problem is that there are no such references in the minutes of the May 21, 2019 meeting. The closest thing to a reference to EnergyNow in the minutes reads:
“The broker found the best price with Constellation Energy.” That’s it. There are no references to any of the documents they are seeking in the minutes.
This is emblematic of the sloppiness of how Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock dealt with the whole FOIL request
So here is a challenge to my readers: This is a link to the minutes. Anyone who can find any of the references Mr. McTygue or Ms. Bullock used in their FOIL in the minutes of the May 21 Council meeting will win a bottle of twelve year old McCallum Single Malt Scotch.
Assuming there are no references in the minutes, I would be interested in anyone’s theory as to how they made such an error. Is it possible they never bothered to actually read the minutes of the meeting?
My understanding is that Trish Bush, who is the FOIL officer for the city could not find anything in the minutes so she polled the Mayor and the Commissioners to see if they had any of the documents being sought. Commissioner of Accounts John Franck provided her with the energy utilization data but nothing else. information-release-authorization-agreement.pdf
In July John Franck realized that in fact he had signed a document making EnergyNow the city’s agent. He contacted Mr. DeLeonardis and Ms. Bush and sent them the document (https://saratogaspringspolitics.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/information-release-authorization-agreement.pdf).
On August 14 Ms. Bush sent McTygue and Bullock an amended update to the FOIL with the document.
Mr. McTygue’s remarks to the Saratogian quoted above made it sound as though only his and Ms. Bullock’s sleuthing revealed the additional document whereas it was voluntarily forwarded to him and from the beginning Ms. Bush showed due diligence trying to fulfill their FOIL request.
As someone who has been through the FOIL process I would offer to the readers of this blog that under Scott Johnson’s administration getting a FOIL response was almost impossible. Mr. DeLeonardis and Ms. Bush could easily have exploited the sloppiness of the Bullock/McTygue FOIL request in order to be unresponsive claiming they could find no references in the minutes of the May 21 meeting to the documents sought. Instead they obviously went beyond the call of duty to locate the sought after materials.
I cannot end this blog without rising in defense of Vincent DeLeonardis and Trish Bush. These are two outstanding people whose integrity is beyond reproach. We are all fortunate to have them serving this city.
It is distressing that in their campaign to change the city’s form of government (both Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock are in the leadership of the city manager effort) these people think nothing of trampling on the names of people in our city government in order to try to portray the current administration as corrupt and incompetent and thus urgently in need of a change in government.