Incoming Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi has posted a follow-up on her Facebook page regarding the issue of Lisa Shields’s candidacy for IT director.
Minita Sanghvi is Assistant Professor in the Management and Business Department at Skidmore College where she teaches marketing, gender, and politics. One of her focuses is political marketing.
Apparently, she failed to consider that Commissioner Madigan might read her post and respond.
Just to clarify on the director of IT issue
I have met with Kevin Kling and Commissioner Madigan. And we all agreed that we should NOT pursue Lisa Shields an an [sic] option for Director of IT. While she may be a great deputy for the mayor in the current administration, I think her appointment as Director of IT would be politically divisive and not in the best interests of our city. I truly appreciate Michele Madigan listening and understanding varioius perspectives on the issue.
These are never easy decisions and I believe everyone (whether they agree with the decision or not) want what’s best for our city.Minita Sanghvi from her Facebook page.
This Was No Rush Job
The quest to fill this job has gone on for months. The position was originally posted on August 3, 2021.
The position has been difficult to fill with a salary of $90,000. It was reissued on November 22, 2021. Finding skilled IT people in the current environment is not easy. Kevin Kling, the current IT director, interviewed twelve people for the position. Many candidates chose not to return for a second interview. Apparently, the fact that the position is only provisional is a disincentive. Commissioner Madigan tells me that Kling identified three more candidates to interview, but she has asked him to put those off until Ms. Sanghvi can be involved. Ms. Sanghvi has never met or interviewed Ms. Shields and went to the press before discussing the position with Mr. Kling.
Regrettably, I understand that Ms. Sanghvi has left on holiday to India so it is not clear when the additional interviewing will take place.
This does not leave much of a window to hire the new IT director before Mr. Kling retires. Optimally the new hire would be on board before Mr. Kling leaves in order to ensure a smooth transition.
I am also told that another member of the IT department has resigned which means there are now two positions to fill. Ms. Sanghvi will also need to hire a new deputy for the Finance Department.
Lisa Shields Offers Her Thoughts
Ms. Shields has sent me the following statement.
It does not bode well that Ms. Sanghvi allows whatever her issues may be with Mayor Kelly to dismiss the candidacy of Ms. Shields.
Your post on December 9 regarding Incoming Finance Commissioner Sanghvi’s Reckless And False Accusations accurately described me as working “quietly without fanfare”, which I have enjoyed doing for 5+ years in City Hall. I am compelled to depart from this characterization now, not only because of the small-minded, damaging, and alarming behavior demonstrated by Ms. Sanghvi, but to defend my integrity, expertise, and reputation.
Let me make it clear that I did not expect Commissioner Madigan, or the incoming Finance Commissioner were obligated to hire me as IT Director. That I was the preferred candidate well into the interview process speaks to my strengths and suitability for the job. The concerns I’m outlining below call into question fair-mindedness, leadership, professionalism, bias, and decision-making. There are established policies and procedures for seeking employment with the City, which I followed to pursue opportunities for which I am well-qualified. No one should ever be subjected to this treatment.
Behavior Concern #1:
She made judgments based on false information and repeated them publicly.
Regardless of her source, Ms. Sanghvi formulated a misleading narrative about me and my desire to pursue employment with the city. Her unfounded assertions to the Times Union that Mayor Kelly was involved to assure I have “a job come January” and that she “tried to appoint me as the head of the planning department” are patently false. The job to head the planning and building teams was posted in September. I am highly qualified for this position, having overseen the department for four years as Deputy Mayor and stepped in to lead when Bradley Birge retired in January 2021. As is my right, I submitted my application through an open and transparent process with Civil Service. I believe that my experience, contributions, and leadership would be valuable to the City in this role. In fact, the incoming mayor was notified by HR several weeks ago that Mayor Kelly decided to let him fill the position.
Notwithstanding confidentiality, Ms. Sanghvi should be mindful to verify information received from her City Hall sources to avoid creating a destructive, toxic, and rumor-filled workplace.
Behavior Concern #2:
She showed a lack of leadership and poor management skills by not considering the top IT candidate.
In mid-October, I was asked by Kevin Kling to apply for the IT Director position and transition to replace him when he retires in January. I submitted my application through an open and transparent process. I exceed the qualifications for the job and believe that my experience, contributions, and leadership would be valuable to the City in this role. I was among many other candidates interviewed and, in fact, I was Kevin’stop choice. Commissioner Madigan made a courtesy call to Ms. Sanghvi last week to discuss the process and facilitate a smooth transition. I desired and expected to meet with Ms. Sanghvi for her consideration, as the incoming Finance Department head. As of this writing, I have not met or spoken with her.
Behavior Concern #3:
She demonstrated a lack of professionalism in running to the media without consulting HR.
Instead of meeting with Kevin and me, Ms. Sanghvi contacted the Times Union to complain. She has yet to learn the complex organizational structure of our city’s government, which includes interfacing with Civil Service, Human Resources, and seven labor unions to understand staffing procedures and the employment environment that will guide day-to-day operations. Best practices for handling personnel complaints include starting with an open mind, meeting with the involved parties, and consulting HR before running to the media.
Behavior Concern #4:
She demonstrated ageism in her judgment of my competence for the IT position.
In her complaint published in the Times Union, Ms. Sanghvi disparaged me as unqualified because my “…computer science degree was awarded in 1981.” Also from the article, “That was 40 years ago,” Sanghvi said. “Does any part of what she learned remain?”
The foundational data processing principles from my 1981 SUNY Potsdam degree ARE indeed relevant today. Even 40 years ago, effective business management and decision-making relied on quality information systems for recording, accessing, analyzing, and reporting accurate information. While the hardware and software technologies that deliver these systems have changed and will continue to progress, the underlying methodologies for business problem solving remain essential.
Ms. Sanghvi dismissed my 40-year-old degree which led to two IBM internships, a career with the Hewlett-Packard Company, and the head of IT for a K-8 private school. Throughout those 18+ years, I developed knowledge of new hardware and software technologies and applied them to solve business problems. Further, as Deputy Mayor my leadership in improving service levels to constituents in the building and planning departments is due in large part to my expertise in applying current technologies to track and automate workflow processes, evaluate workload status and performance, and communicate timely and accurate information to our applicants.
Behavior Concern #5:
She failed to recognize the value of my institutional knowledge to the critical IT business operations.
From the Skidmore College website, one can see that Ms. Sanghvi has several degrees and published works, though it’s not clear if she has any experience outside of the academic environment. Perhaps that is one explanation for the small-minded, damaging, and alarming behavior that now jeopardizes a smooth transition.
In summary, this behavior is concerning for any public or private sector leader. It’s wrong to make rash and biased judgments. It’s irresponsible to make important management decisions this way. It is imperative to speak out against this kind of behavior. The employees and residents of the City of Saratoga Springs deserve better.