The December 21, 2021 edition of the Daily Gazette reports that mayor-elect Ron Kim will terminate City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis and Assistant Attorney Tony Izzo.
I was stunned to learn of Tony’s dismissal. Tony Izzo has been the Assistant City Attorney for roughly the last thirty-five years through many administrations. No one loves and has devoted more time to our city than Tony.
People who follow this blog know that it is rare for past Mayor Joanne Yepsen and me to agree. The Gazette story reported that on February 17, 2016, Mayor Yepsen issued a proclamation acknowledging Tony’s service to our city.
The proclamation cited Izzo’s “incredibly impressive and detailed knowledge of city government, city history, city events and City Hall that is useful to all departments and employees on a daily basis,” along with his “exceptional work ethic, incredible selflessness, natural kindness, abundant compassion, wonderful sense of humor and able storytelling.”Daily Gazette December 21, 2021
I could not agree more.
The Gazette reported:
“Tony’s a great resource for the city,” Kim acknowledged. “I just feel like we need more of a litigator there. Everybody has a different style, as attorneys. He’s a great counselor. He’s been great for the city. I think we’re redefining that role.”Daily Gazette December 21, 2021
Pardon my skepticism, but I think this has more to do with the tribal mentality of those who will be taking control of the city. We live in an age in which too often “you are either with us or against us.” In such a world there is no place for my friend, Tony Izzo.
A Dubious Rationale
According to the Gazette, Kim also cited his dissatisfaction with City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis. In particular, he noted his dissatisfaction with DeLeonardis’ advice to the city council regarding the recommendations of the city’s task force on police reform.
The Governor’s executive order establishing these task forces statewide stated that its determinations “…shall be presented to the local legislative body in such political subdivision, which shall ratify or adopt such plan by local law or resolution, as appropriate [JK: my emphasis], no later than April 1, 2021.”
“‘Shall’ is a very clear interpretation in the law,” said Kim, who’s also a lawyer. “It means you do it. And that was just a fundamental disagreement of two attorneys.”
He continued: “I read the executive order to say that you appoint these people, they do their research, they do their hearings, all of which they did — and then they make recommendations, and the City Council or the governing body shall” adopt the plan.
Kim added that it is “important that the mayor and city council have a city attorney giving honest, good, strong advice — but also sees the direction that they want to go.”Daily Gazette December 21, 2021
Mr. Kim overlooks the words “as appropriate” in the order. With respect to Mr. Kim, the idea that Saratoga, along with every other municipality in the state, was required to adopt whatever these task forces decided on begs credibility. The Saratoga Springs Task Force, for instance, made at least two recommendations that the city could not legally adopt because they conflicted with federal or state laws or policies. One has to wonder how Mr. Kim interprets “as appropriate?”
In my four-plus decades here in Saratoga Springs, Vince DeLeonardis was the most thoughtful and fair City Attorney I ever dealt with. His termination is a real loss to the city.
The New City Attorney?
In the meantime, I am told that Mr. Kim has selected Elizabeth Fletcher as the new City Attorney. Ms. Fletcher is a bankruptcy attorney and as best as I can tell, she herself filed for bankruptcy in both 1997 and in 2010.
I believe Ms. Fletcher lives in Middle Grove. New York State Public Officers Law Section 3 requires that public officers, of which the City Attorney is one, are required to reside in the municipality where they exercise their authority.