This is a follow-up to my earlier post about the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors granting a fifty percent increase to their essential employees that, not surprisingly and according to the Times Union, includes all the top management at the County. There was a recent article by Wendy Liberatore for the Times Union that sheds a little more light on this.
Three of the the recipients of the county government’s largess are:
County Administrator, Spencer Hellwig $166,653 X 1.5 = $249,980
Sheriff Michael Zurlo $134,325 X 1.5 = $241,488
Emergency Services Director, Carl Zeilman, $79,746 X 1.5 = $119,649 [JK: Mr. Zeilman is also the Chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Party]
I know that our own Mayor and Commissioners are putting in long hours for their regular annual salaries of $14,500.00. I know that their deputies are similarly working very hard and not from home which puts them at risk but their salaries are remaining the same. Our police and firefighters and Public Works employees are working at the same salaries. Most importantly I think of the nurses and doctors who are and will be working long hours under threat of the virus for their normal pay, and I think about these county “managers” receiving these out sized bonuses of taxpayer money and I am truly outraged.
What I have been unable to find out is how this was done and who was responsible for the decision. The article in the Times Union did not provide any explanation. Normally, one would expect that this action would require a resolution by the Board of Supervisors. I am reprinting a comment submitted by Lew Benton who at one time worked for the County and also held the office in the city of Public Safety Commissioner (see below).
I spoke to Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston and she told me that so far she has been unable to get an answer as to how all this occurred. I also wrote to the city’s other Supervisor, Matthew Veitch, asking him whether he supported the decision and also how the decision was made and by whom.
The history of our county government is rife with cronyism and incompetence but the fact that they would take advantage of this national crisis to enrich themselves is truly a disgrace.
Lew Benton’s Assessment
I have read the TU article referenced in the John K. post above. The story seems to lack content.
Can you find out if the 50% increase in compensation for certain County official was formally authorized by resolution of the Board of Supervisors. The story notes that some members of the Board, including one of the city’s, seem to have not been fully aware. Certainly that suggests that the award was made without required legal authority.
As you know, Saratoga in a non-charter county and is governed by NYS General County Law. So certainly only the Board of Supervisors would have the authority by formal action to grant such increases. Also, the County does not have a county executive. The siting chairman of the Board serves in the executive capacity but he can only act, as in this matter, if specifically authorized by vote of the full Board. He cannot unilaterally act.
There is a County administrator, but he is not an executive authority and serves at the pleasure of the Board. That title was established by local law of the Board and has limited authority, certainly nothing that would permit an action that amounts to amending the County budget and compensation schedule.
So it is inscrutable, as the story suggests, that there was no formal action.
Can you use your contacts to clarify. Certainly officials such as the county sheriff and county administrator would not be entitled to additional compensation for performing duties in a public emergency that are inherently part of their roles. Perhaps the story is not accurate so clarification would be helpful.