Times Union Watch: Taking A Non-Story And Trying To Make An Expose

As with many of Wendy Liberatore’s stories in the Times Union the one published recently about city furniture being stored behind the city’s ice rink is pretty mundane and boring and has none of the drama and scandal the headline and opening paragraphs would lead the reader to anticipate.

The story bore the following headline:

“Saratoga Springs Guarding Its Pile of Discarded Furniture”

The subheading reads:

“When asked to get a look at what the city put out, a Times Union reporter was asked to leave”

While this has a certain dramatic, Nancy Drew quality to it, given Ms. Liberatore’s history, it is hardly surprising that she is not welcome to areas not designated as “public.”

For those who didn’t get beyond the headline (which I realize Ms. Liberatore did not write) and her opening paragraphs one would be left with the impression that something shady was going on. After all it would be reasonable to think why wasn’t the reporter allowed to take a look? If one actually read the whole story, as with others Ms. Liberatore has written, they would discover that the there is nothing actually in the story to support any kind of misdeeds. It is not a coincidence that these stories often have as their sources members of the charter change group. Readers will remember the story of Bill McTygue and Ann Bullock allegedly going to the Attorney General, Dillon Moran was the source of the city water non-story, and a story about alleged misspending on the restoration of city hall extensively quoted Ron Kim and Bob Turner.

So here is the background to this latest non-story:

When the city rehabbed city hall they transferred the existing furniture to temporary storage structures located behind the city’s ice rink. A significant number of items had been damaged in the fire and were covered by insurance. Other furniture had simply suffered the abuse of time. Some of it had been the property of the courts.

Subsequently, the city purchased new furniture for their offices. In the meantime employees from the city departments and the local court offices have been visiting the site and going through the inventory deciding on which items they wanted to keep.

The city’s plan was to allow time for departments and the courts to decide what they wanted to keep and then either to donate what remained to local non-profit groups or discard what was no longer usable.

Apparently Bob Turner and Pat Kane learned of the inventory and this week (the first week in November) decided to go out and inspect the area. When they arrived they were asked to leave. Turner left but apparently Mr. Kane resisted. DPW staff ended up calling the police who escorted Mr. Kane off the site.

Some time later, Wendy Liberatore, the Times Union reporter, arrived but the DPW staff on site refused her access.

According to Ms. Liberatore’s story, Department of Public Works business manager Michael Veitch was on site and explained to her:

‘…the furniture needs to be reviewed by the departments, and court staff to determine if they have a use for it.’

“If there is a use it will be kept. After the process it can be offered up to nonprofits or discarded. Much of the remaining furniture appears to be relatively old and would probably be considered depreciated to the point of having no present value.”

Veitch to Liberatore November 5, 2020

In her story, Ms. Liberatore reported that the city had allegedly spent $324,269.00 on furniture. Ms. Liberatore had FOILed the city for all invoices associated with the city hall restoration. As the reader can imagine, there was a motherload of invoices. The reader will pardon my skepticism but as someone who has closely observed these people I think it is likely that Ms. Liberatore depended on the pro-charter people to come up with conclusions about the information rather than independently reviewing all these materials herself. It remains to be seen how inflated the numbers being thrown around here are. The charter change proponents do not have a great record when it comes to accuracy. As documented on this blog, information published on the Common Sense Saratoga site has been not only shown to be untrue but easily debunked. I would urge the readers to be cautious about Ms. Liberatore’s figures.

Ms. Liberatore reported that Pat Kane had “perused” the inventory. According to Kane, he “discovered” about one hundred boxes of records.

The city had in fact stored a large number of boxes of documents in one of the tractor trailers during the restoration of city hall. These were simply stored while the offices were being refurbished. These boxes were not being thrown away. I was told that they are being reviewed to decide what needs to be kept and where to store these. Some of these papers will need to be located where they can be accessed while others being kept to meet legal requirements will need to find a home that is both secure but does not take up the most accessible and valuable space at city hall.

Below are photos taken on Friday of some of the furniture that still remains at the site.

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