Todd Kusnierz (R- Town of Moreau), who is the chair of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, has summarily removed Supervisor Tara Gaston (D-Saratoga Springs) not only from the chair of the county’s Committee on Health and Human Services, he has removed her from the committee.
His action follows a minor conflict at the most recent meeting of the committee.
RISE is a group in the town of Ballston trying to build affordable housing. The group had successfully secured grants for their project, but the recent spike in the cost of lumber suddenly increased the price of the project by a million and a half dollars.
To secure the grants, RISE was required to come up with the full financing. While the cost of lumber is expected to drop, the applications must be completed by the end of the month. The county apparently has received some $44,000,000.00 in federal monies under the CARES act. RISE is seeking $400,000.00. They stressed that hopefully they will not need the moneys if lumber prices moderate, but for now they need the county’s commitment of funds to secure the grants.
They asked Tara Gaston as the chair to allow them to address her committee. Apparently Supervisor Gaston had a sense that the request would be at least temporarily rejected. The county has yet to establish a vehicle for accepting applications for the moneys. The members of Gaston’s committee all opposed acting on the application at this time.
My understanding is that the leadership of the county does not like to publicly deal with issues when there are not the votes to approve an action. They prefer to deal with things out of the public eye. Supervisor Gaston apparently felt that RISE deserved the opportunity to do their presentation even if it would not be adopted at this point.
I have excerpted two episodes from the meeting. The first occurred during the discussion over the RISE proposal. Supervisor Gaston expressed frustration at the lack of input from her colleagues prior to the meeting.
She exercised the privilege of the chair to express that frustration. When Kusnierz tried to respond she asked him to save his comments until “other business” at the end of the meeting.
The second excerpt is from “other business.” Supervisor Gaston begins by apologizing apparently for not using this part of the agenda to express her own concerns. Kusnierz then issues a backhanded attack on Gaston by assuring the members of the committee that in the future the meetings will be run “smoothly and with decorum.”
It has been my misfortune to have listened to more meetings of public officials than any reasonable person can be expected to endure. In fact, I subjected myself to the lengthy bitter brawls at the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors during the conflicts between the two factions last year over the COVID bonus fiasco.
I think most people listening to these recordings will agree that Supervisor Gaston’s comments did not rise to a level that could possibly be described as violating decorum nor of running a chaotic meeting.
It would appear that the decision to remove her from both the chairmanship and the membership of the committee was punitive.
I will not speculate on why this was done but it is just another indication that while the new leadership at the county is better than the old, that is a very low bar.