Both the Republican and Democratic parties have sent out postcards attacking their endorsed candidates’ opponents. Below are the allegations made in the mailings and the information I turned up looking into the charges the parties have made about two of the candidates running for mayor in this year’s election.
Allegations By Republicans Re Ron Kim
1. Allegation: “Ron’s Primary Residence Is Queensbury”
The allegation includes an image from a 2017 edition of the Post Star Newspaper that shows the following quote:
“He [Kim] and his wife purchased a home in Queensbury in 2008, which is now their primary residence…’It’s sort of an empty nester thing as our lifestyle has changed.'”
In the June 28 edition of the Daily Gazette the reporter wrote:
“Republicans said Kim’s actions amounted to voter fraud, and it said the city deserved a full-time resident’s service.”
Mr. Kim owns homes both in Queensbury and Saratoga Springs. He sought the Democratic endorsement to run against Elise Stefanik in 2018. In order to run for this position he had to live in her district, and he gave his Queensbury home as his primary residence.
According to the Gazette, Mr. Kim voted in Warren County in 2018, 2019, and 2020 before switching his voter registration to Saratoga Springs when he lead the charter change campaign to replace Saratoga’s form of government with a city manager and ward system.
Mr. Kim responded to this allegation by noting that his children both attended the Saratoga Springs schools.
Kim told the Gazette that , “…he divides time between the two communities to relieve his mother of caring for his father. He said the needs of his father, a Korean War veteran, increased during the pandemic.”
The New York State Board of Elections is very tolerant when it comes to a candidate’s residence.
Past Public Works Commissioner Tom McTygue owned both a horse farm in the town of Saratoga and a house in Saratoga Springs. For years the Republican Party sought to have him disqualified from running in Saratoga Springs alleging that in reality his farm in the town of Saratoga was where he lived. It never found traction with the New York State Board of Elections.
I spoke to Saratoga Springs Republican Chair Chris Obstarczyk about the residency issue. He told me the issue was not over a violation of election law but over Kim’s not being a full time resident of Saratoga Springs.
2.Allegation: “Court Forced Ron To Pay 5-figures in Unpaid Rent.”
Mr. Kim was sued by the landlord of his law office for failure to pay rent.
Mr. Kim’s lease on his law office on Long Alley expired in August of 2008, but he remained in that space until August of 2016. Mr. Kim had signed an agreement that should he stay in that office after his lease expired, he would pay a substantial increase in rent (from approximately $1,700.00 increased to $2,800.00). Instead of paying the $2,800,00 as required by the agreement he simply continued to pay his landlord the lower amount he had been paying when his lease was in effect.
When he finally left those offices the landlord initiated the suit for the difference between what Kim had agreed to pay should he stay in these offices after his lease expired and what Kim actually paid. The landlord calculated that the amount Kim owed him in back rent during the eight years was a total of $61,000.
Kim’s requirement to pay the $2,800.00 is crystal clear. Here is the relevant section from his lease. Note “Thirty-sixth (Holdover Tenant).
The following is from the “pleadings” in the lawsuit and show how they arrived at the figure of $61,000.00.
The suit was settled for $16,000.
An article in the Gazette quoted Kim: “’I think there is a big difference between 16 and 60,’ Kim said, pointing out that at some point it makes more sense to settle than continuing to pay lawyer’s fees.“
Mr. Kim’s settlement was, to say the least, very much favorable to him at the expense of his landlord. It appears that it wasn’t he who decided it wasn’t worth the legal expenses to pursue the case but his landlord. I guess some might view this as a shrewd business move by Mr. Kim, while others would characterize it as a dubious legal move that shafted his landlord.
3.Allegation: Served with multiple unpaid tax warrants
The New York State Department of Labor and Department of Taxation issued warrants regarding unpaid taxes for the third quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. The total including fines came to approximately $3,000.00 which he eventually paid.
In his interview with the Gazette he explained:
For his part, Kim explained the late payments as stemming from a period of time of unexpected financial strain after a fuel tank spilled in his basement, forcing him and his family to relocate as they absorbed the cost of cleanup while litigating for years who was responsible for the spill.
“We were under some extreme financial pressure at that time,” he said of the late tax payments.Daily Gazette September 5, 2021
4. Allegation: And Ron Still Owes The State Thousands in Workers’ Comp Taxes
[Kim] has said that he did not have any employees during that period of time and did not need to carry the insurance, and on Friday he said he was fighting the penalty.
The workers’ compensation penalty stemmed from a period during 2016 when the state said Kim failed to carry needed workers’ compensation insurance from February to July. The state board in August 2019 issued a final notice to Kim to pay $7,000 in the matter, and a court judgment was filed in October 2019 declaring Kim had still not paid the penalty.Daily Gazette September 5, 2021
It is true that if a business owner has no employees they are not required to carry Workmen’s Compensation Insurance, but it is hard to fathom what is going on here. The judgement goes back to 2019 and according to the state he has still not resolved the issue.
One possible scenario is that Kim had employees prior to 2016 and failed to advise the state as required that they were no longer with him thus incurring the fine. It is also possible that in spite of his statements to the press he may have had employees for at least part of the period in question. I have spoken to an accountant who indicated that if he in fact had no employees it is very possible to negotiate a resolution that would reduce the fine, and it is odd that it has not been resolved by now.
I have emailed Mr. Kim asking whether he has been in touch with the Workmen’s Compensation Board on this matter and what they are saying. I have not yet received an answer from him.
Bottom line is that the issue remains unresolved and without some explanation from Mr. Kim as to why the state continues to pursue the penalty in spite of his claim about no employees we cannot know the full truth.
Allegations By Democrats Re Heidi Owen West
- Allegation: Owen West sued the city of Saratoga Springs to block the building of an Eastside Public Safety Building.
It is true that she participated in the suit. It is also true, as alleged by the Democrats, that the city had to pay significantly to defend against the suit. What they leave out is that she withdrew from the suit (it was subsequently dismissed by the court) and has repeatedly assured the public that, if elected, she will follow through on the currently designed project to make it happen.
2. Allegation: “Owen West tells Democrats she’s an independent while attempting to win Trump supporters by refusing to acknowledge Biden won the election.”
They cite a story by Lucas Willard of WAMC.
West, who has the endorsement of the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee, was also asked via text message if the event featuring Scott Presler and endorsed by Representative Stefanik gave her any pause, and if she believed President Biden won the 2020 election fair and square.
The owner of three downtown clothing stores responded:
“If the other candidates running for mayor want to nationalize this race, that’s fine. But that’s not what I’m doing in my race. Those questions, and this event, have nothing to do with accomplishing my goals I’ve set out to achieve once I become mayor of Saratoga Springs,” said West.Lucas Willard, WAMC August 26, 2021
I contacted Ms. Owen West and asked her to respond.
Here is the text of her message:
“I don’t know how to be any more clear, Joe Biden won the election and he is our president, fact! Attacks and fictitious rumors about me are distracting, misleading for voters and not what our citizens are looking for. Let’s focus on the real issues facing Saratogians.”Heidi Owen West
This particular attack by the Democrats is particularly cynical given that the Chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee solicited Owen West to Run as a Democrat.
Apparently the Democrats did not believe that Ms. Owen West was a Trump acolyte when then city Democratic Chair Sarah Burger repeatedly tried to persuade Ms. Owen West to head up their ticket.
Although Ms. Burger and others have recently tried to deny this, I have come into possession of the texts below in which Ms. Burger repeatedly solicited Ms. Owen West to run for mayor on the Democratic line.
The texts from Ms. Burger to Ms. Owen West begin in mid-February, 2021. I have selected representative texts from a lengthy exchange. Sarah Burger’s texts are black letters against a white background. Heidi Owen West’s are white letters against a black background.
3. Allegation: “Owen West is not making affordable housing a priority and indicated there is not a problem with the amount of affordable housing in the city”
This allegation is based on an exchange during the League of Women Voters Forum and specifically references as its source the October 5, 2021, story in the Foothills Daily. Given the content it is hard to understand how the Democrats could make such an allegation. Here is the text from the Foothills Daily:
Owen West: “I believe the…community development office actually has done a great job of working with builders and real estate firms to secure housing for residents in the city. I think a lot of what happens is, we’re not aware of all the opportunities. Right now the city’s on target to exceed units more than twice what HUD requires, so I think part of it is really getting the message out there and the knowledge about the programs that are available so that everyone is insured a place in Saratoga Springs.”
Kim response: “I don’t hear anyone saying we’ve got enough affordable housing. To the contrary, what I hear is that this is an absolute need that has to happen.”
Dalton response: “It insults residents to say that we’re just not aware of all this low income or affordable housing. So I just wanted to point out, it is a huge priority of mine…And that means creating more workforce and affordable housing, and it does not exist right now.”
Owen West response: “So I didn’t say that I that…there was enough affordable housing, I said I would start by making sure people were aware of what we have, what’s in the pipeline…I just wanted to be sure that people understood that we were at twice the limit of the HUD requirements so that we are doing a great job, but we can always do better. I did not say there was enough.”
To claim, based on this exchange that Ms. Owen West does not support additional affordable housing can be characterized as, at the very least, disturbingly misleading.
4. Allegation: “Owen West is backed by thousands of dollars from big developers and she’ll be in their pocket when it comes to key city appointments”
In July, Ms. Owen West reported to the New York State Board of Elections on the contributions she had received. There were ninety-six contributors. The only contributors whose names I recognized as developers or whose names appeared to imply that they were related to the development industry were Tom Roohan who is the owner of Roohan Realty, a Mike Morgan who apparently owns Morgan Construction Services, and a Brett Balzer with Balzer Tuck Architecture.
I would also observe that because a candidate receives contributions from a developer does not always mean that they have been bought. Our current Mayor has received donations from members of the development community and her two terms do not reflect any prejudice on their behalf.
The flyer also trumpets an ethics complaint the Democrats made to the New York State Board of Elections against Ms. Owen West. The allegations are as dubious as the others in this flyer but as nothing will happen before the election they are yet another example of campaign abuse.