The special meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors ended before it began.
The Weighted Vote
In our county Supervisors represent municipalities whose populations vary radically. According to the United States Bureau of Census the city of Saratoga Springs population is 28,005 whereas the the town of Day has a population of 806. So Saratoga Springs has approximately thirty-five times the population of the town of Day.
When the Supervisors vote, the value placed on each Supervisor’s vote is based on the population of the municipality they represent. So when Preston Allen votes, his vote is recorded as 806. The vote of the two Saratoga Springs Supervisors (if they vote the same way) would equal 28,005. This is the meaning of a “weighted vote.”
There are twenty-one towns and cities in Saratoga County. Seven municipalities have 70% of the population. Pardon the pun. The Supervisors from those seven towns carry a lot of weight.
At 3:00 PM today (April 17, 2020) the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors convened their special meeting.
Because the meeting was held using Zoom, those wishing to listen did so by dialing a telephone number. Whoever was managing the technology was apparently inexperienced because at least one Supervisor was connected by both their computer and their phone so there were intermittent squawks of feedback.
The meeting began with a roll call to determine who was present. Before any business could be transacted, however, the Supervisors had to vote on a motion to “ratify” the meeting.
The Clerk of the Board again went through the roll call to record the vote. Only two Supervisors commented before voting. Supervisor O’Connor from Malta briefly stated that he was voting to oppose the motion because the business was better addressed at a regular meeting of the Board. Supervisor Tollisen simply said he agreed with O’Connor and voted no.
Saratoga Springs Supervisors Matthew Veitch and Tara Gaston were among those voting no.
The final weighted vote was 36% for and 64% against ratifying the meeting thus no business could be conducted.
Following the clerk’s declaration that the motion had failed, Chair of the Board, Preston Allen, called for a motion to adjourn. There was a voice vote to do so and that was it…
A Stunning Event
I have observed the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors for over forty years. During all those years the organization has been dominated by a very hierarchical Republican Party. The operation has been largely opaque. All decisions were decided prior to the Board of Supervisors meetings and other than some ceremonial events they simply ran through the resolutions approving them.
As readers may recall, County Administrator Spencer Hellwig boasted to the Times Union that he was confident that the Board would approve suspending Rule #1 thus cancelling future regular Board meetings. By first voting down ratifying the meeting, the Board never even took up Rule #1.
What made Hellwig and Board Chair Preston Allen, who called the special meeting and determined the agenda, believe they had the votes?
The late Jaspar Nolan was chair of the Saratoga County Republican Party for many years. I knew Jaspar well. He was on my board of directors when I ran the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council. He would never have allowed this conflict to fester and then explode in public, especially during a pandemic when the role of county government is especially important.
After the debacle with the pay raises one would have expected the County Administrator Spencer Hellwig and Supervisor Allen and their allies to try to reach out and repair the damage. Instead they seem to have doubled down.
Given the restraint of the dissident Supervisors I observed in the Zoom meeting they held last week I felt it was apparent that they would have liked to work something out.
It is really hard to grasp how truly incompetent the leadership of the County is. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Supervisors convene their regular meeting on Tuesday.