The chair of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, Preston Allen, appeared twice in the Saratogian over the week end.
Sunday’s paper had a Readers View in which Allen praised everyone for doing a great job with few specifics about what county officials were actually doing “around the clock” to earn those time and a half salaries. For instance he says the Director of Human Resources, Marcy McNamara, (who served on the committee that gave her the time and a half raise) is “actively working with personnel and labor unions to ensure all operational needs are being met”- whatever that means. I suspect this was something written by the public relations firm the County uses.
In its April 10 edition the Saratogian reported that Preston Allen intends to create a new committee to “further oversee” the County’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no explanation as to how this committee’s responsibilities will differ from those of the committee the Supervisor’s set up to institute the time and a half raises.
This committee (which also doesn’t have a name) will be chaired by Town of Northumberland Supervisor Bill Peck who chairs the Public Safety Committee. The other appointees are as follows:
- Town of Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood, Chair of the Human Resource & Insurance Committee
- Town of Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge, Chair of the Public Works Committee
- Town of Waterford Supervisor Jack Lawler, Chair of the Economic Development Committee
- Town of Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor, Member Health and Social Services Committee
- Town of Milton Supervisor Benny Zlotnick, Member Health and Social Services Committee
- City of Saratoga Springs Supervisors Matt Veitch, Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee
The first and most glaring thing about this committee is that a majority of its members are the hard core faction (Peck, Lawler, Grattidge, Wood) who were instrumental in bringing us the time and a half salary debacle and who continue to block the ability of the Board of Supervisors to hold a special meeting to address this mess. It is chaired by a member of that faction.
According to the Saratogian Allen will be seeking the approval of the Board of Supervisors to set up this committee. This is interesting since this month’s Supervisors’ meeting has disappeared off the calendar and the majority of this committee’s members have refused to join those Supervisors who have been attempting to call a special meeting.
Preston Allen’s choice of Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matthew Veitch for the committee raises many concerns.
Supervisor Matthew Veitch is quiet spoken and one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. He has always shown the greatest courtesy to me in spite of the harsh criticisms that have appeared a number of times on this blog. The problem with Supervisor Veitch is that he has always been a team player with the faction that has run our County for decades and which has demonstrated the worst kind of incompetence and cronyism. I regret that being nice is not enough. His silence during the fiascoes that he has participated in cannot be ignored.
The Great Siemens Fiasco
As just one example, there was the Seimans fiasco. Many years ago Siemans convinced Warren and Saratoga County to pay them to build co-generation plants to provide heat and electricity to their respective county owned nursing homes. The plants were supposed to save the counties millions.
According to a story that ran in the Post Star Newspaper, an enterprising watchdog in Warren County did some research and discovered that their co-generation plant would never recover the $3,500,000.00 they spent to build it.
..a criminal investigation last year focused on a natural gas-powered energy generation system installed at Westmount Health Facility in 2005 [JK: The story was written in 2016], at a cost of $3.5 million.
The Westmount probe followed an independent review of the system that showed Siemens’ reports of energy savings from the facility were inaccurate at best and fraudulent at worst. No criminal charges resulted from the investigation, however.
Siemens refused to answer questions for this story and has repeatedly issued prepared statements saying the company stands behind its efforts here and has lived up to all of its contractual obligations.Post Star February 14, 2016
When Saratoga County sold their nursing home the company that purchased it did so on the basis that they would not have to buy the co-generation plant. They saw it for what it was. A financial black hole.
I wrote to Supervisor Veitch at the time calling on him to see that the history of the County’s project be made public. How much did it originally cost and how much did it “save” each year? At the time he was either the chair of the Board of Supervisors or had just relinquished the chair. He refused to comment saying that the County was putting that behind them. It was never investigated and we will probably never learn how much of our money was wasted nor will we discover why the County did not sue Siemens. No one was ever held accountable for this financial disaster. Supervisor Veitch has an open invitation to defend the Seimens project on this blog. I will put up whatever he writes unedited.
Supervisor Veitch is one of the three members of this new committee who signed a letter calling for a special meeting to address the County’s salary debacle. Although he signed the letter, he has claimed ignorance as to how the salaries came about even though he was present at both the committee and full board meetings where they were discussed. At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting he and Supervisor Gaston were unable to answer any of the questions posed to them by Council members.
Now, when Preston Allen asked him to be on this new committee did Supervisor Veitch ask for any of the information he was unable to provide at the City Council meeting? Did he ask when the special meeting was going to be scheduled? Without assurances that he and the rest of the Supervisors would be put back in the information and decision making loop, agreeing to join this committee only lends legitimacy to a move by Allen to appear to be responding to criticism without actually doing anything other than creating a new committee that his faction can control.
Regrettably Supervisor Veitch’s cooperation with this new committee may be simply an extension of his years of silence representing Saratoga Springs on the County Board.
Rob Arrigo who chairs the Libertarian Party has started a petition drive calling for the Board of Supervisors to convene a special meeting to address the controversy over the pay increases. He also calls for the removal of County Administrator Spencer Hellwig and Human Resource Director Marcy McNamara.