Will The County Adhere To The Open Meetings Law?
Due to the Covid-19 emergency Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that modified the New York State Open Meetings Law. Public meetings no longer have to allow the public to be present. The order did, however, offer some new requirements meant to maintain the spirit of the law. Among those requirements is that organizations subject to the law must provide a transcript of the meetings. Granted that the last meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors was on April 21 which is not that long ago but to date, no transcript of that meeting has been made available. Today (May 1) I emailed the clerk of the board to ask when the transcript will be available. The clerk, Pam Wright, has been responsive in the past. When I get a response I will post it.
The Usual Suspects
In the meantime, the Human Resources Committee of the Board of Supervisors met yesterday (April 30,2020). Attending the meeting were the seven members of the committee along with six other Supervisors. In addition attending the meeting were the County Administrator Spencer Hellwig, Human Resources Director Marcy McNamara, County Attorney Stephen Dorsey, and Adam Kinowski who apparently holds an administrative position that deals with insurance. Most county meetings are family affairs and this one was no exception. Mr. Knowski’s father, Ed, is a Supervisor and was also there.
In fact, the five people who were on the original committee that authorized the controversial raises were all present. Conspicuously absent were any Supervisors who signed the letter that challenged the decision. The usual suspects like to keep things simple.
Supervisor Tom Wood, who chairs the Human Resources Committee and was a member of the original committee that created the county’s mess, announced the formation of a subcommittee charged with investigating the controversy over the raises. He appointed Allan Grattidge, Jack Lawler, and Bill Peck.
Supervisor Peck asked County Attorney Stephen Dorsey whether the independent investigation of the controversy had been initiated. [His “innocent” question reminded me of this scene from the film Casablanca:
As it turns out, according to Dorsey, the law firm E. Stewart Jones, Hacker, and Murphy have not only been retained but have already started their investigation. According to a story in the Times Union by Wendy Liberatore, the firm is being paid $350.00 an hour.
Of course all of this was done with total opacity. How was the decision made to select that particular firm? No one at the meeting saw the need to inquire.
Ms. Liberatore reported Supervisor Tara Gaston’s response.
[Tara Gaston] was stunned to learn about the investigations proceeding without the scope or funding secured.
“It’s not the way to conduct an internal or external investigation,” Gaston said. “I’m literally shocked and I continue to be shocked. … We are not responding to this in way we need to.”Times Union April 30, 2020
Supervisor Jack Lawler expressed surprise similar to Claude Raines when he told the Times Union,
“This group wanted an external investigation and wanted it quickly,” Lawler said. “This was done. We engage one of the most reputable law firm [sic], outside of Saratoga County, to avoid any appearance of bias and to leave no stone unturned. … Frankly, I’m surprised they are still complaining.”Times Union April 30, 2020
These people have no sense of irony.