Saratoga Springs Supervisors Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch have taken to social media to deny having responsibility for granting 50% raises to “essential” workers in Saratoga County even though there is evidence to contradict this.
Here is what Supervisor Veitch posted on his Facebook page:
I felt it was necessary to comment in regards to various media reports regarding pay for essential employees during the current crisis.
First, I appreciate all the hard work that everyone in Saratoga County Government is doing in response to the crisis, in fact I commend all of their efforts in serving the public with a reduced staff in this difficult time. They are doing a fantastic job.
Yes, the County is currently operating under a policy where most of the essential employees are getting 1.5 times pay for hours worked. I was informed of this decision on March 15th by our County administration, and was not involved at all in developing this policy. (Emphasis added)
Last week, the board of Supervisors voted on a resolution that appropriated $1M toward the response to the COVID-19 current crisis. I believed it was right and necessary to appropriate resources to respond to this crisis and voted for it. Nowhere in that resolution does it approve or dictate time and a half rates for essential employees. (Emphasis added)
I am not in agreement with the blanket time and a half policy for the County employees. The County employees have great, secure jobs and great benefits. I am open to finding a way to show our appreciation for the first responders and front-line employees who are taking a risk by just doing their jobs every day. At the current time there are many who are being laid off, and business that are struggling and not able to benefit during this crisis, so time and a half for they County is not the right decision.
I have signed on with Supervisors from other towns who also feel this way in asking for a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible to rectify this situation and properly propose a pay policy that does not include time and a half pay for our employees, and is appropriate for emergency response to this crisis.
On her Facebook page Tara Gaston offered a similar defense.
On March 15, 2020 administrator Hellwig notified the board of supervisors that essential workers were to recieve time and a half during the COVID-19 emergency. I immediately sought details, including who created the policy.
On March 17, 2020 the board debated resolution 84-2020 to amend the budget. The time and a half policy was not included in the resolution and was not voted on. Nevertheless, the topic was discussed. I requested that the pay discussion be taken to executive session to allow frank conversation about the origins and details of this policy. Chairman Allen, on the advice of county attorney Dorsey, denied the request.
So both Supervisors Veitch and Gaston state correctly that the raises were not in the resolution they voted for. But now they both write that the County Administrator Spencer Hellwig informed them two days before they voted that “essential” workers were to receive the time and a half raise. How did they think that was going to happen?
Keep in mind that both Supervisors were present at the Law and Finance Committee meeting on March 17 when the raises were discussed and that the raises were discussed also that day at the full Board of Supervisors meeting as documented in a previous post. Supervisor Gaston even restates in her Facebook post that she “requested that the pay discussion be taken into executive session to allow frank conversation about the origins and detail of this policy.” When her request is denied she makes no further attempt to pursue this.
Did the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors vote directly to grant a 50% salary increase to “essential” workers. No, they did not. But what they did do is knowingly vote to establish a committee (that included some who would benefit from the increase) to implement these raises.
After having been informed of the pending raises by the County Administrator and discussing the raises at both the Law and Finance meeting and the full Board meeting the resolution they all voted for stated that they agreed to establish a committee that would “have authority to ….determine appropriate County employee staffing levels and rates of compensation...”
Wikipedia defines the term plausible deniability as follows:
Plausible deniability is the ability of people (typically senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. The lack of evidence to the contrary ostensibly makes the denial plausible (that is, credible), although sometimes it merely makes it unactionable
Sometimes it’s best just to say you’re sorry.