Item #19 on Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim’s agenda for the June 7, 2022, City Council meeting is a resolution to move the Director of Health and Safety from the Accounts Department to the Mayor’s department. Not everyone thinks this proposal is a good idea.
The resolution reads in part:
The position of Director of Risk & Safety shall report to, and work under the general supervision and administrative direction of, the City Attorney, effective July 1, 2022.
Since its inception at the initiative of then Commissioner Steve Towne, the Director of Risk and Safety has been part of the city’s Accounts Department which handles the city’s insurance program. According to Kim’s resolution the position of Director of Risk & Safety was established “to coordinate all insurance and safety activity within the City and provide a resource for each Commissioner to implement safety rules and regulations within their departments.”
Marilyn Rivers is the first and only Director and has held that position for the last eighteen years. Among her many accomplishments over the years has been the implementation of the security system in city hall, ensuring that the City’s historic artifacts are properly insured, facilitating the insurance financing necessary to address all the issues resulting from the city hall fire, and making sure that the handling of ongoing litigation and lawsuits reflect the city’s best interests. It is unclear what impact the proposed change will have on her employment status.
One of the people expressing concern over Kim’s proposal to move this position into his department is Laura Emanation. Ms. Emanation had a distinguished career as a Saratoga Springs police officer beginning at the bottom and working her way up to Lieutenant. This year she was forced out of the Police Department by Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino.
Ms. Emanation sent the following email to the City Council challenging Mayor Kim’s action. According to a reliable source her email ended up in the city’s junk mail folder and only today (6/6/22), the day before the City Council will meet to vote on Kim’s proposal, did the Council receive it after an outside source prompted a search for the correspondence.
As an IT professional I find an email system that sends a citizen’s correspondence with elected officials to junk mail to be shocking to say the least.
Here is what Ms. Emanation sent to the City Council:
Ms. Emanation’s Email
From: Laura Emanatian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Jun 5, 2022 at 5:16 PM
Subject: Director of Risk and Safety Oversight
To: <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As my elected officials I would like to voice my concern over the City Council Agenda for the June 7, 2022 meeting; specifically, the Mayor’s agenda item number 20.
I would like to challenge the thought process on moving Risk and Safety to the Mayor’s office oversight. This move is not a lateral move into the Mayor’s office. This is an attempt to control and overtake areas that the Mayor does not have authority over. The City Charter identifies responsibilities of each commissioner and office. Each commissioner exists for a reason – and this process is being undermined.
I know that you do not know me, but I am confident you have heard my name in months, if not years, past. I am Laura Emanatian, recently retired from the Police Department. I have remained quiet for very personal reasons, but what I see happening in City Hall has me greatly concerned. When I reviewed the council agenda, I immediately knew what was happening and I now feel the need to be vocal.
Marilyn Rivers has been a fierce supporter of mine and I fear that she is being punished for her unwavering support of me. I have great concerns that this act is retaliatory for being an intelligent woman with a voice. If you compare what just happened in my situation to what is happening right now, you will see that things are one in the same. I am sure you have heard Jim Montignino’s perspective on what occurred, but no one has heard from me. I will not go into the details but essentially, we are setting a very disturbing trend to threaten someone’s career and force them out if they don’t follow a very specific agenda, right or wrong, truth or lies. Silence them into submission, or otherwise they will be punished.
As elected officials, you are leaders. As leaders, it is your responsibility to foster an environment where ideas can be shared without fear of retribution. This is not something that is actively occurring in city hall and this attempt to overtake Risk and Safety is a direct reflection of that mentality. Until someone will speak out against this behavior, you will continue to empower this sick mentality, and the city will fall further behind. Any leader that actively seeks to control areas that are not theirs to control, is not a leader, they are a dictator. This is an absolute mockery of our democracy and our community deserves better.
I have worked with Marilyn Rivers for the duration of my career. In the past ten years, I have come to work very closely with her with respect to the permit process, special events, city security cameras, swipe cards, capital budget projects, and most importantly the City Hall fire. Her work ethic and dedication to her job is paramount to the insurability of the City and the employees of the City. She is a leader in her field, recognized throughout the country as an educator in Risk and Safety. It is because of Marilyn, that the City is insured properly and we were able to recover the losses due to the fire that occurred in 2018. I was in the building for the duration of the fire and the days following. Marilyn worked alongside Chief Williams and assured all employees she would work tirelessly to get everything covered. And she did. Her recordkeeping for fixed assets allowed us to quickly identify damaged offices, equipment in them, and cost. Because the City Charter defines all records to be kept in the Accounts office, we were able to act quickly to get areas identified and equipment replaced.
As a taxpayer and retired city employee, I feel that it is imperative to educate others on the years past and how we got to where we are. Ron Kim was the Public Safety Commissioner when I had to make very difficult decisions that would impact the trajectory of my career. Since Ron could not seem to make a decision that would give equality to the female employees of the police department, an area he was responsible for, I used my voice to advocate for that equality. Not only would he not provide equality, he then refused to promote the most vocal person advocating for equality, me. You won’t see anything published on this lawsuit, because the judge ordered a gag on it. While those years were very painful, they were also meant to happen as I learned the voice you have is yours and yours alone. Should you be punished for using it, there are protections in place. While the righting of the wrongs couldn’t happen fast enough, it did happen. Not only was Ron’s decision overturned, I continued to climb the ranks at the police department and show my value in each and every one.
I challenge each of you to be the voice against the mayor in his attempt to further his own agenda. I challenge you to speak up for those working in city hall as defined and undefined leaders on your behalf. It is the valued work of each employee that makes each of you a success. I challenge you to speak loudly and in favor of our employees for being intelligent, competent, and valued in the workplace. Create an environment where productive conversations can occur without the fear of retribution.
If I can be of further assistance, I can be reached via email.