Saratoga County Throws The Public A Bone; Insurgent Supervisors Organize To Force Special Meeting

Following the publishing of the Times Union story on Saratoga County granting time and a half to their “essential employees” the story went viral on social media. Supervisors from Clifton Park and Moreau issued statements to the media questioning the policy.

According to the Times Union, Sheriff Michael Zurlo and Director of Emergency Management Services Carl Zeilman (Chair of the Saratoga County Republican Committee) announced that they would not be accepting the time and a half.

New York State Law Would Not Allow Sheriff Zurlo This Raise

It should be noted that Sheriff Zurlo should never have been included in the raises. New York State Law prohibits elected officials from receiving an increase in salary during their current term except through a very challenging process. At the end of this post you will find an explanation of the statutes I received from Lew Benton.

Unflattering Coverage In The Media

Last night (March 25) WNYT (Channel 13) ran two stories, on the raises, neither of them very flattering. Particularly stinging in the stories was commentary from the County Administrator for Warren County, Ryan Moore:

“To ask those people (laid off workers) to reach into their pocket right now when they’re out of work and don’t have the money to pay us for doing our jobs that we took an oath to do? Come on.”

Supervisors Ask For Answers

In a letter dated March 24, Supervisors representing Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Wilton, and Malta wrote to Preston Allen, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and Spencer Hellwig, the County Administrator. The letter ends with the following:

We believe that everybody should strongly consider decisions made regarding compensation of employees, not only establishes precedent for the future of the County, but also has a direct effect on the individual municipalities that we manage.

A week has now passed, since the March 17th BOS meeting and we would like a timely update on the current situation involving how and where funds are being spent regarding the COVID-19 response. Thank you for your timely response.

Letter

While it would have been more helpful if they had raised these concerns at the meeting when the resolution that allowed for the raises was adopted, I welcome their taking up the issue now.

Saratoga County “Adjusts” Policy On Raises

Wendy Liberatore reported in yesterday’s (March 25) Times Union that the County has “tweaked” the policies regarding salaries:

  • They have reduced the number of managers receiving the enhanced pay. They reported that 35 managers will be entitled to the pay. For a county government of our size that seems like quite a few “managers.” The article did not include how many managers the county has so we have no idea how significant this drop is.
  • The managers will receive time and a half for the first thirty-five hours and then regular pay after that. This is a strange inversion.
  • Another three hundred employees will continue to receive time and a half for all the normal hours they work.
  • Spencer Hellwig, the County Administrator, will not be receiving time and a half from now on. It was unclear whether he voluntarily gave up the perk or if it was decided for him.
  • Apparently Marcie McNamara, Director of Human Resources, is still a beneficiary. I would remind the readers that Ms. McNamara is both the beneficiary of the benefits and also sits on a five person committee appointed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors that determines who gets the benefits and what those benefits will be. I find it hard to believe that this does not violate some statute in New York State law.

Something of a Revolt by the Largest Towns/Cities

Saratoga County has a weighted vote system. The weight of each Supervisor’s vote in many cases is based on the population of the towns/cities they represent.

There are twenty-three Supervisors representing twenty-one jurisdictions. Saratoga Springs and Clifton Park have two Supervisors each because they are the largest jurisdictions.

As best I can determine:

The total population of the county is 219,607

A majority vote by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors requires a weighted vote of 109,804

The total populations of Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Milton, and Wilton is 119,574. So Supervisors from these five jurisdictions represent a weighted majority of the twenty-one towns in the County.

Calling a special meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors requires a majority of the seated 23 Supervisors (12), not a majority of weighted votes.

According to my sources ten Supervisors initiated a call for a special meeting of the Saratoga County Board. They represented the towns/cities of:

Clifton Park (2)

Halfmoon

Malta

Milton

Moreau

Ballston

Saratoga Springs (2)

As a majority requires twelve votes they were short two Supervisors. I was told that at least two of the smaller town Supervisors have agreed to sign on. I was also told by a reliable source that there will probably be an emergency meeting sometime this week but that would mean it would have to take place tomorrow, Friday.

Lew Benton On Raising Salaries For Elected Official  For instance, the compensation of an elected county official (sheriff) CANNOT be increased during his term ( see New York Consolidated Laws, County Law – CNT § 201. Compensation of officers) EXCEPT by invoking Section 24, 2., h. of the Municipal Home Rule Law which I have pasted and highlighted below:2., h.In the case of a city, town or village increases the salary of an elective officer during his term of office or, in the case of a county, increases the salary of an elective officer or of an officer appointed for a fixed term, during his term of office, except where any such increase by a county is made in accordance with a schedule providing higher rates of compensation through additional increments of salary based on time service, which schedule or applicable amendment thereof was in existence prior to the commencement of such term of office.As you can see, to increase an elected official’s compensation requires adoption of a local law subject to permissive referendum.  Such  a local law requires formal publlic hearing and adoption by he Board of Supervisors.

One thought on “Saratoga County Throws The Public A Bone; Insurgent Supervisors Organize To Force Special Meeting”

  1. In the real world, managers are placed on salary to avoid having to pay overtime to them. Some managers I know work work 70 hours a week or more on occasion. You are right – 35 managers? Are we afraid they will call in sick too?

    Oh, please… the keyword is mistake.

    My understanding is that the Supervisors voted for this unanimously. They should take unanimous responsibility and revoke this whole thing.

    Start over and do better next time. Pure and simple.

    Like

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