I have been an observer of and a participant in local politics in Saratoga Springs for almost fifty years. In all that time I have never observed a more blatant waste of public money than Mayor Ron Kim’s decision to hire a private law firm to appeal Judge Jeffery Wait’s decision in City v Church Street Trust.
The principal of Church Street Trust is Jeffery Dumont. He had been cited for initiating work on a property without the required building permit.
Judge Wait, citing the failure of the city to appear at the hearing regarding this case, reversed a guilty plea by Mr. Dumont and dismissed the stipulations against him.
The reality is that the decision had no material impact on the case. Mr. Dumont did not have a building permit and in spite of the decision, is not now entitled to a building permit. He has yet to get approval from the Design Review Commission, and the city’s code enforcement could simply issue citations against him regarding the same issues.
In spite of this, Mayor Kim has engaged the law firm Miller Mannix to appeal the decision.
I sent an inquiry to Commissioner of Finance Minita Sanghvi asking how much this appeal is going to cost the city. To her credit, she did partially respond to my inquiry, but she apparently did not bother to inquire as to what the estimate would be for this court action. Rather, she informed me that the city has the law firm under retainer “for land use issues up to $50,000″ providing Mayor Kim with a sizeable piggy bank to dip in to. Miller Mannix bills $230 an hour. Kim could burn through that account fairly quickly if not checked.
Your Tax Dollars= Mayor Kim’s Piggy Bank
Readers might ask, why would Mayor Kim expend public moneys on pointless litigation. The only rationale I can come up with is that Judge Wait’s decision embarrassed Mayor Kim. The Mayor would like to use your tax dollars now to embarrass Judge Wait by overturning his decision.
One Last Try
So your trusted blogger decided to brave the snow and cold to attend last night’s council meeting (March 1, 2022).
The checks and balances in the commission form of government in this case rest with Mayor Kim’s fellow Council members so I courteously asked them to assist by asking the Mayor the two questions he would not answer when I asked them:
- Can the purpose of this appeal be resolved without expensive litigation?
- How much is this litigation estimated to cost?
Commissioners Sanghvi, Moran, and Montagnino ignored my request (Commissioner Scirocco was not present due to illness).
It is important to note that the issue here is not just the gross waste of public money but the cavalier dismissal of the central question of transparency. These two questions are simple, and the public has a right to know how their money is being spent and why.
So That’s It
So that’s it. No one on the Council is rising to the defense of the taxpayers. Eventually, we will find out what this fiasco has cost us.
Time to move on, I guess.