The upcoming race for Saratoga Springs County Supervisors is a study in the sad state of local politics. I recently sent questions to the Republican candidates, Matt Veitch and John Safford, and the Democratic candidates, Tara Gaston and Shaun Wiggins, regarding recent events at the Board of Supervisors.
Both events have been covered in earlier posts. One involved the violation of the Open Meetings Law by a committee chaired by Supervisor Tara Gaston. In an earlier email exchange with Supervisor Gaston she dismissed the ruling by the New York State Open Meetings Law that confirmed the violation.
The other involved the hiring of a past chair of the Saratoga County Republican Party to the position of County Administrator. I had FOILed the county for any documents associated with the selection. The only document they provided me was the resolution hiring him. So much for a search for the best candidate.
The only response that I received from the four candidates was from John Safford who is running on the Republican line. I like Mr. Safford. Although I routinely disagree with him, he is refreshingly courteous and direct. You always know where he stands. In this case he defended the county on both issues. I am including his response below.
In contrast, I wrote to his fellow candidates twice, and none of them responded or even acknowledged my emails.
I can understand Supervisor Veitch’s and Supervisor Gaston’s silence. Since they both voted to hire the ex-county Republican chair without doing a search, how could they defend the cronyism associated with this hiring?
What I cannot understand is the silence of Shaun Wiggins who is the other Supervisor candidate on the Democratic line. As he was not involved in either event, one would have hoped he would be critical and inspire support by promising to change things down at the Board of Supervisors. So much for any hope of a champion for change.
There are two more candidates running on the Working Families Party (WFP) line for Supervisor . These two are faux WFP members. The Republican Party directed members of their party to change their registration to the Working Families Party in order to secure that line in the upcoming election.
This kind of manipulation is truly disgraceful. It is meant to fool voters who think they are supporting the progressive agenda of the WFP (Single Payer Health Care, a Green New Deal, etc.) into voting for decidedly more conservative individuals who have no intention of supporting the WFP platform.
I did not send questions to the candidates who will appear on this line and do not plan to contact them as I do not want to offer any credibility to these people.
John Safford’s Answers
According to a FOIL response from the county, the only document associated with the recent hiring of a new county administrator was the Board of Supervisor resolution making the appointment.
While the failure to advertise the position and to establish a public process for hiring was not illegal, the fact that the hiring was not competitive and resulted in the appointment of a past Saratoga County Republican chairman has the unfortunate appearance of cronyism.
I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how this appointment was handled.
As I am engaged in the management of small governments on a day to day basis, I can give an answer to both of your questions from a professional point of view.
The circumstances surrounding the Covid bonus pay incident was a clear indication of the kind of hubris that attends almost all administrations that have attained a level of hegemony and longevity that often blinds the actors to reality. On a state level, the administration of Gov. Cuomo comes to mind. That being said, (and whether or not you think it was transparent) the incident resulted in a decisive action resulting in the removal of a long employed professional manager. Concerning the hiring of a new administrator, I will agree that politics was involved but not necessarily cronyism. Since the entire balance of the Board was thrown out of kilter with the Civid incident, I think the Supervisors needed to act quickly to get someone they knew and trusted on board and I think that is exactly what they did.JOhn Safford
The independent investigation of the COVID bonus pay fiasco determined that the COVID committee established by the county violated the Open Meetings Law. Recently the Committee on Open Government determined that the January 27,2021, meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee again violated the Open Meetings Law. [ https://saratogaspringspolitics.com/2021/02/16/nys-committee-on-open-government-issues-opinion-that-county-violated-the-law-supervisor-gaston-doubles-down-that-the-county-did-nothing-wrong/ ]
Do you feel these incidents indicate a problem with transparency in County government and if so what actions would you take to avoid future incidents.
Concerning the open meetings law, I think the specific incident in question was in danger of getting out of hand and a decision was made to close it down publically.John Safford
While I do not agree with Mr. Safford, I appreciated his candor.