The appointment of Steven Bulger to the position of County Administrator is deeply disturbing and raises grave doubts about whether the change of leadership at the county will result in real reform.
Mr. Bulger is a long time political operative. As reported in the January 7, 2021, Daily Gazette:
Bulger has been involved in Republican politics for decades, and is a former chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Committee and was district director to then-U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson when Gibson, now president of Siena College, was serving in Congress. Bulger is currently the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, a job he would potentially lose with the end of the Trump administration.Daily Gazette
It is possible that Mr. Bulger has the administrative skills to do the job, but the manner of his appointment does little to encourage confidence.
To say that the way he was selected was opaque would be generous. It was more like a black hole.
This blog has been highly critical of Supervisor John Lawler (Waterford). He bears a great deal of responsibility for the past problems at the county but he was on the money in his attack on Bulger’s selection.
Who did the interviews for a replacement? Were there any other candidates? I’m guessing not?”
“The fact that Mr. Bulger is the former chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Committee is terrible optics.”John Lawler as quoted in the January 7, 2021 Daily Gazette
Bulger’s name was unceremoniously presented to the Board of Supervisors as one of about fifteen resolutions on the agenda for the January 6 meeting. The creation of the agenda was opaque. Supervisors attending the January 6 meeting asked repeatedly who crafted the agenda but could not get an answer. When pressed, newly elected chair of the board Todd Kusnierz denied that he wrote it, but did not offer any information as to who did.
We are talking about filling the most powerful position in the county. Under normal circumstances one would expect that an acting County Administrator would be appointed while a proper search was done.
That search would involve the public posting of the position. As with most high positions, an executive search firm would have been contracted with to seek out the best candidate. After all, this is the person who will essentially be running the county.
There remains the question whether this mysterious selection even met the requirements of anti-discrimination laws.
To choose the past chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Committee as the county administer behind closed doors and without a search is an example of Yogi Berra’s adage of “it’s deja vu all over again”.
The specific choice of Bulger is disturbing but the manner by which he was chosen is even more disturbing. Its tone deafness and heavy handedness mirrors the very problems the insurgents claimed they were going to end.
One might well ask where the Saratoga Springs Supervisors were in this sordid business. The answer is that they offered no criticism and voted for Mr. Burger.
I received a press release issued by Supervisor Tara Gaston. With no sense of irony she wrote:
“Supervisor Kusnierz launched his tenure with remarks on improving communication and transparency [JK: my emphasis] in county government, beginning with a thorough and public COVID-19 response plan.”
“It is therefore with hope, honor, and humility that I accept his (Kusnierz) appointment to lead the Board’s Health and Social Services Committee.”Supervisor Gaston Press Release
Supervisor Kusnierz may have a “thorough and public COVID-19 response plan,” but other than announcing that his top priority would be getting a vaccine out and improving contact tracing, few details were given.
For those of us who had viewed the successful change in county leadership with great anticipation, these developments have been a cold dose of reality.