[JK: I am currently working on a post detailing the report by the law firm that carried out the independent investigation of the Saratoga County pandemic raise debacle. In contrast to the endless testimonials at the August 18, 2020, meeting praising the “genius and dedication” of County Administrator Hellwig, the details of the report paint a picture of a simply stunningly inept administration ignorant or oblivious of state law and incoherent in their stumbling and often contradictory policies. I found it quite amazing to the point of embarrassing that the Supervisors who supported Hellwig at this meeting would publicly proclaim that they found nothing in the report of any consequence. God help this county!]
[Correction: The original article an inaccuracy. The original resolution to terminate Hellwig was made by Todd Kusnierz.]
At the August 18, 2020, meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors a resolution was put forward by Moreau Supervisor Todd Kusnierz to in effect terminate County Administrator Spenser Hellwig.
Hellwig is an “at-will” employee. Theoretically that means he can be terminated at the simple discretion of his employer which in this case is the Board of Supervisors. In our litigious age that does not mean that an employee cannot challenge the decision in court. Hellwig has worked for Saratoga County for some thirty-two years so it is reasonable that a court would give any appeal from him a sympathetic ear.
The resolution offered by Schopf was brief. It offered no particulars as to why Hellwig should be terminated. The apparent assumption was that as an at-will employee, it was not necessary. The resolution’s supporters assumed that the devastating, independent report on the pandemic raise debacle proved their case and that nothing more was needed. It appeared to me that they assumed that arguing over the contents of the report would simply involve them in endless argument. During the very long meeting, they refused to discuss the particulars as to why Hellwig should be fired.
What ensued was an ordeal of blather. In terms of the numbers of Supervisors present, supporters of the resolution were in the minority. There were about seven of them as compared to sixteen defenders of Hellwig. Due to the weighted vote system, however, it appeared that the supporters of the resolution had the votes originally.
What followed were hours of chaos as Hellwig’s allies challenged the resolution’s supporters to explain why their Administrator should be fired. This loyal blogger had to endure hours of these people going on about how cruel and unfair it was to fire a dedicated employee who had served the county brilliantly. They berated the resolution’s supporters for their unwillingness to explain why this man who they described in saintly terms should be fired without due process [JK: A process for “at will” employees that was never described]. The Board of Supervisors has a rule meant to limit the time individuals can speak on any resolution. This time limit was simply ignored by the Chair in spite of protestations from Hellwig’s critics. Basically Hellwig’s supporters took up about eighty-five percent of the talking time.
The meeting was as poorly run as the County. It was not surprising because the meeting was chaired by Preston Allen, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. This whole mess happened on his watch. Because the County has a weighted vote system it can create a very distorted picture. It only takes seven supervisors from the municipalities with the greatest populations to form a majority even though there are twenty-three supervisors. So the dynamic was sixteen Supervisors berating seven Supervisors. They accused the supporters of the resolution as playing politics. As they are pretty much all Republicans, this seemed like a very strange attack but logic and prudence were not in evidence at the meeting.
In the end a committee was set up with half being supporters of the resolution and half being opponents to review Hellwig and come back with recommendations.