Another Contentious City Council Meeting Exposes Toxic Work Environment in City Hall

The Tuesday, September 20, 2022, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting was full of more contentious behavior on the part of the Mayor and some of the Commissioners. The conflict this time was precipitated by an error made by Council members at the previous meeting on September 6.

As readers will recall, Mayor Ron Kim recently marshaled support from a majority of the Council to move the Director of Risk and Safety out of the Accounts Department and into his own department. Unfortunately, the Mayor failed at the same time to provide for the funds necessary to pay for the position once it was transferred to his office.

Probably as a way to jerk Kim around and to expose the Mayor’s inept handling of the matter, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran decided to move the money that was left in his budget from the empty Risk and Safety position to fund other items in his department thus leaving the Risk and Safety position unfunded. As required, he submitted his request to the Finance Department.

At the September 6 City Council meeting Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi read out Moran’s reallocation of money request, asking for and receiving Council approval. The vote, in fact, was unanimous. Thus the members of the Council became complicit in Moran’s move, something they quickly came to regret once they discovered later what they had voted for.

It is important to note that Commissioners have traditionally had wide latitude to move money around their own department’s annual budget to address changing needs. While some may criticize Commissioner Moran for this ploy, there was nothing illegal in his actions. Nothing was hidden, although Moran did nothing to alert his colleagues to its implications.

By the September 20 meeting, some Council members had become aware of their involvement in Moran’s move and sought to reverse their vote. True to form, Mayor Kim was outraged over the matter and was quick to claim there had been nefarious goings-on and dramatically suggested a forensic accountant should look into the matter. He was supported in his suspicions by his current ally, Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino, who wanted to know how this could have happened without a Council vote, apparently unaware that there had been a vote and that he had voted yes.

Another Faux Crisis

All of this drama was rooted in a simple oversight. No one in the Finance Department, including the Commissioner, picked up on the problem with Moran’s requested transfer, and no one on the Council spotted it either. It would seem that this Council pays no more attention to budget changes than they have to the consent agenda. Readers should consider also that under the previous administration, City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis enjoyed the trust of the entire Council, and he regularly went through the agenda to make sure everything was correct and in order. I suspect the current Council does not have the current City Attorney, Tony Izzo, fulfill a similar duty.

The whole thing could have been quietly corrected if people of good faith had worked together prior to the meeting to address the problem. Commissioner Moran, in fact, voted with the rest of his colleagues to reverse his budget changes.

This whole business should never have become a major public fight at the Council table.

Commissioner Sanghvi’s Unfortunate Behavior

Earlier this year, Commissioner Sanghvi shared with the Council an incident in her office she found disturbing. Commissioner Moran had sent to the Finance office an envelope containing a shredded warrant that he was challenging. At a City Council meeting Commissioner Sanghvi described to her colleagues on the Council how the member of her staff who opened the envelope experienced this as a source of trauma, and she took Moran to task for being insensitive and upsetting a member of her staff.

Her concern for the feelings of one of her employees in this instance is in sharp contrast to her recent treatment of another member of her staff.

Regrettably, at both the City Council table and in comments made to the media, Commissioner Sanghvi chose to single out and blame one of her employees for not catching Moran’s budget changes even though the changes had also been missed by other Finance Department staff members and the Commissioner herself not to mention every member of the Council. At the Council table, she identified the position in her department the individual she was blaming held. In the case of her comments to the Foothills Business Daily, Sanghvi called out the employee by name.

One would have thought that Sanghvi, given the previous concerns she expressed about Commissioner Moran upsetting a member of her staff by sending an envelope of shredded paper, would have been sensitive to the devastating impact her public blaming and naming of one of her employees would have on that individual. Apparently not.

This is unfortunately another example of incidents we are hearing about that are contributing to what we are told is an increasingly toxic workplace environment in City Hall.

Below is a link from the Saratoga Podcast in which Adam Israel offers a thoughtful critique of Commissioner Sanghvi’s handling of the matter. (Note that apparently Adam was unaware that Sanghvi named the person in the Foothills Business Daily article.) Ms. Sanghvi would do well to listen carefully to Adam’s remarks about leadership and all that that entails in terms of taking responsibility for whatever may happen within an organization. Adam argues that a thoughtful executive recognizes that the buck stops with them and they take responsibility for any errors that occur within the organization they head. They do not subject their subordinates to public embarrassment.

The following are some excerpts from the Council meeting as background.

In this clip, Commissioner Montagnino piles on after the Mayor alleges some sort of impropriety by asking how this happened. He is, of course, oblivious to the fact that he had voted to approve the problematic transfer.

The mayor characterizes the transfer as “mysterious.”

Kim wants to hire a forensic accountant to do an investigation.

Commissioner Golub points out that this issue was the result of a minor oversight and pushes back that nothing that could be characterized as serious was involved.

A Deeply Troubling Liberty Affordable Inc. Workforce Housing Proposal Is Back in Play

On September 6, 2022, the Saratoga Springs City Council voted unanimously to send to the Planning Board a proposal from Liberty Affordable Inc. to build workforce housing on a plot of land on the corner of Crescent Avenue and Jefferson Street. This plan is very similar to the one Liberty put forward in 2018 which was unanimously rejected by the Saratoga Springs Planning Board for numerous reasons including the inability of Liberty to guarantee that only workforce housing would be built on the lot.

Now Liberty is back with a modestly revised proposal, which closely follows the 2018 plan. Their new plan involves building two structures that will hold 200 units (the 2018 proposal was for 192) that will include studios and one- and two-bedrooms apartments. According to the developer, their target population would qualify if their income range was between $45,000.00 and $84,000.00. The rents, the developer proposes, would range from $900.00 to $1,650.00 per month.

Similar to the 2018 proposal, Liberty’s selling point is that it will provide workforce housing, and similar to the 2018 proposal, actually making this housing affordable is dependent on getting federal support. The proposal will also require rezoning the parcel from RR (rural residential) to UR-4 (urban residential), a change not only in the allowed density but also in the kinds of uses permitted on the property which would be allowed whether or not the workforce project ever gets built.

At the September 6, 2022, meeting, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran moved that the city refer the latest version from Liberty to the Planning Board and that it makes the Council the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review rather than the Planning Board.

Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi expressed concern about the city being the lead agency in light of the fact that Commissioner Moran appeared to be sponsoring the proposal.

Mayor Kim expressed concern that the proposal probably required that the city’s Comprehensive Plan be revised before the change in zoning could be considered. The city’s comp plan currently designates the area as consistent with rural residential similar to the greenbelt although the property is not actually in the greenbelt.

A friendly amendment removed the language that would have made the Council the lead agency for now.

In light of the fact that the previous effort by Liberty resulted in a unanimous opinion opposing the project, one might have expected the current Council to ask the developer to address those earlier objections before moving the project on again so quickly to the Planning Board. That was not the case.

The Guerrilla In The Room

Whatever the reader may think about what tradeoffs the city should consider in order to expand workforce/affordable housing, there is a fundamental problem with this Liberty proposal that helped kill it in 2018 and that remains today.

In 2018, the developer was unable to provide a formal assurance that if granted the required land use regulation relief, the project would actually happen. No matter what good faith the developer may have, the project was then and is now dependent on federal and state money grants and tax incentives in order to succeed. These grants are highly competitive, and it is impossible to predict whether the principals will succeed in securing the critical money.

The city is being asked to approve the land use changes in terms of rezoning prior to knowing if the money to do the project will be forthcoming. If it is not, the land if rezoned could be used for all kinds of high-end homes and commercial uses such as hotels allowed under UR-4.

Sustainable Saratoga has a long history of advocating for affordable housing in the city. In a thoughtful letter to the City Council, though, they documented this and other problems with the proposal and asked that the Council put off action referring the project to the Planning Board “with merit” until these issues could be considered. They wrote:

Second, while Liberty may intend to apply for federal funding for affordable housing if they are granted the requested zoning amendment, there is no guarantee that they will receive such funding. If the project does not receive federal funding, the zoning change to UR-4 would allow the property to be developed in any manner permitted in that zone. By amending the zoning the city loses its ability to control development on that parcel. It cannot rescind the zoning change if the applicant fails to obtain federal funding, or make the change conditional on the developer obtaining federal funding for affordable housing. Once the parcel is rezoned, if the applicant does not receive the affordable housing grants it seeks, the parcel likely will be developed to its most financially lucrative potential within UR-4 parameters.    

While I appreciate Commissioner Moran’s and the other Council members’ passionate advocacy for diverse housing as expressed at the September 6, 2022, Council meeting, it is critical that such passion be tempered by a sober and rigorous assessment of the full implications of this development proposal.

Unless Liberty can provide iron-clad proof that only affordable housing will be built, why refer this project to the Planning Board for further consideration when in the end without that guarantee it will open up yet another parcel in the city to more high end/tourist related development.

A Covenant

I’m told that one of the ways to address the issue of assuring this project would indeed produce workforce housing and not higher end housing or commercial development would be by placing a covenant on the deed that would require that only affordable housing would be allowed on the property.

If the project failed to secure funding, or should it go into bankruptcy, the owner of the property would be unable to build anything else there should such a covenant exist. The problem is affordable housing is only viable for a private for-profit developer if its construction is heavily subsidized by the government. No one is going to privately finance such a project. It is unlikely that a reasonable businessperson would put themselves in the position of owning land they potentially could not build on by agreeing to such a covenant.

Digging Into The Issues

I urge the readers of this blog to take the time to read Sustainable Saratoga’s email to the Council that is included in its entirety below. It addresses many other issues concerning the Liberty proposal and argues there are better ways to address the city’s affordable housing needs. In addition, I have included excerpts from the Planning Board meeting that considered the Liberty proposal in 2018. The comments made by members of the Planning Board are still relevant today.

Email From Sustainable Saratoga To The City Council

September 1, 2022

Dear Mayor Kim and Commissioners:

We are writing this letter to express concern about the Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc. application for a zoning amendment for a 30.27 acre parcel on the corner of Crescent Avenue and Jefferson Street.  

As you may know, Sustainable Saratoga has long advocated for workforce housing in Saratoga Springs. We encourage the Council to develop a comprehensive, proactive, and creative strategy to meet the housing diversity and affordability needs of our community, and would be happy to work with the Council toward this goal. For years, Sustainable Saratoga has recommended workable alternatives, such as inclusionary zoning and the conversion of carriage houses into apartments. We also vigorously support development patterns in our city that conform to the established sustainable development principles embodied in our city’s Comprehensive Plan.  We do not believe that these goals are mutually exclusive.     

We have reviewed the application for a zoning amendment filed by Liberty, as well as a similar 2018 application for a zoning amendment and subsequent unfavorable advisory by the city Planning Board, and believe that the current application is flawed both procedurally and substantively.  The Council should, at the outset, require the applicant to address the procedural flaws before accepting the application through a vote on “merit for review,” at least until the significant procedural errors are rectified. 

There are two major procedural errors. First, the petition falsely states that the map amendment is compatible with the 2015 Comprehensive Plan. It also states that the proposed Urban Residential-4 (UR-4) zoning is consistent with the adopted Comprehensive Plan. However, page 55 of the 2015 Comprehensive Plan states that all zoning must conform to the uses and density requirements set forth in the Future Land Use Map. When areas are to be rezoned, the uses and densities permitted within the zoning district must be compatible with the ranges presented in that land use category in the Comprehensive Plan. The property is clearly designated as Residential Neighborhood-1 on page 65 of the Future Use Land Map. Such zoning allows a maximum density of 3.5 units per acre. The proposed UR-4 zoning, which has a maximum density of 14.5 units per acre, is not compatible with the Comprehensive Plan. Therefore, a request to amend the Comprehensive Plan map must accompany the application. No such request accompanied the Liberty petition.  

Second, the SEQRA form attached to the rezoning petition fails to analyze the full set of uses that are permitted under UR-4 zoning. If the City Council were to rezone this 30-acre parcel to UR-4, many other uses in addition to housing would be permitted. These include private schools, hotels (20 rooms or less), lodging houses, adult care facilities, children’s homes, community centers, day care facilities, churches, social clubs, shelters, rooming houses, and other uses not permitted in the existing zone, as well as higher density residential units.  The SEQRA form needs to evaluate the potential environmental impacts from the full list of uses allowed by the UR-4 zoning, not just for a  housing development. The SEQRA form needs to be amended to address that omission.

Because of these two procedural errors, specifically, the failure to include a request to amend the Comprehensive Plan map and the incomplete SEQRA assessment, the application should not be advanced through a “merit for review” vote. 

In addition to the procedural flaws, we also have concerns about the Liberty zoning amendment application on substantive grounds. 

Our first substantive concern about the application is that the City Council does not have the authority to specify that only affordable housing can be built on the property if it is rezoned to UR-4. To try to do so would constitute “contract zoning”, which is not permitted by state law. The City Council is being asked to rezone the property, hoping that it will be developed as affordable housing but, in reality, opening this parcel to any UR-4 development.  If the applicant fails to obtain federal or state funding for affordable housing or abandons the project for another reason, the UR-4 zoning would allow the applicant to sell or use the property for any of the other UR-4 uses allowed by the Unified Development Ordinance. Although a restrictive deed could perhaps restrict the property for use only as affordable housing, no such deed has been proposed by Liberty.

Second, while Liberty may intend to apply for federal funding for affordable housing if they are granted the requested zoning amendment, there is no guarantee that they will receive such funding. If the project does not receive federal funding, the zoning change to UR-4 would allow the property to be developed in any manner permitted in that zone. By amending the zoning the city loses its ability to control development on that parcel. It cannot rescind the zoning change if the applicant fails to obtain federal funding, or make the change conditional on the developer obtaining federal funding for affordable housing. Once the parcel is rezoned, if the applicant does not receive the affordable housing grants it seeks, the parcel likely will be developed to its most financially lucrative potential within UR-4 parameters.    

Third, the allowable densities proposed in the amendment are inconsistent with the development of much of the surrounding area. The project parcel’s current zoning designation allows primarily for the development of low-density, single-family residential neighborhoods, applying conservation design standards. The parcel is adjacent to the city’s Greenbelt and to forested state parkland. While large multi-story apartment buildings might be appropriate in one of our downtown Transect zones, they are inappropriate on this site, which is adjacent to lower intensity development and which contains significant protected wetlands.  

Finally, the Liberty application is not compatible with the city’s existing land use policy.  This is a proposal for  Comprehensive Plan and UDO amendments to accommodate a single incompatible use. Saratoga Springs’ current Comprehensive Plan was created through a long collaborative effort by a large committee appointed by the City Council. The planning process spanned many months and included substantial public participation. Changes to the Comprehensive Plan should only be made through the same process, involving the entire community in a comprehensive look at the future development of the entire city. Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan should be made sparingly and judiciously, and not for the purpose of promoting a single application. 

Looking at the bigger picture, we strongly believe there are better ways to address the city’s affordable housing needs than the apartment complex proposed by Liberty. Large developments dedicated exclusively to “workforce housing” have the undesirable consequence of segregating the city by income, rather than integrating such housing into existing neighborhoods and new mixed-income developments. That said, we are willing to consider supporting less diverse housing projects that help address this major need but only if they are in a location that’s consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s “city in the country” vision that is responsible for so much of this City’s success and uniqueness.

We hope the City Council will carefully review this proposal and consider the broader implications of the proposed amendments.

Thank you for considering our comments.


Dianna Goodwin, Co-Chair                 Laura Rappaport, Co-Chair

Lew Benton On the Proposed Grant Writer and the City Charter

[A guest post by past Public Safety Commissioner Lew Benton]

It seems to me that every candidate for a city council seat and certainly every mayor and commissioner elect should do a few things.

First and foremost, they must read and become fully familiar with the City Charter. Not too much to ask, is it? After all the current City Charter is brief, concise and written in simple, easily understood language.

I note this because your September post included a discussion and comments on the the new “Grant Coordinator” title included in the 2022 Finance Department budget at a salary of $68,000.

As I understand, the Finance Commissioner, while agreeing there is a “ … need for more support with grant writing”, elected instead to hire an executive assistant. It is unclear from your post if the funding of the grant coordinator title is still in the budget or if those monies were transferred to the executive assistant line. Of course that would require budget amendment and thus easily answered.

All of this begs the question: If the need for a grant coordinator in Finance was deemed so necessary why was the title not filled? Which begs another, more fundamental, question: Why was a grant coordinator considered – whatever that is – so essential when, by Charter law, the City already has two departments, Planning and Economic Development and Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation, whose duties specifically require grant preparation and management.

And then, the most fundamental question: Did the then council review the required grant writing and grant administration responsibilities of Planning and Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation before it established the new title in the 2022 Finance budget.

The Charter is abundantly clear. In Title 3, Sections 3.3.6, 3.3.7, and 3.5.5 (see below) the role of each department is enumerated.

Grants. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall, with approval of the Council, seek out and apply for private and public grants for the purposes and benefit of the system. 

Bond and grant allocation. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall make recommendations to the Council regarding use of proceeds from bonds for park, open lands, or historic preservation purposes or from state, federal, or private grants for such purposes.

Grant and loan applications. The Office of Planning and Economic Development shall manage and coordinate application for grants and loans for all City departments, and shall assist in the identification of grant opportunities and the preparation of applications. (My emphasis)

Attention must be drawn to the Charter requirement that it is the Planning Department that shall manage and coordinate application for grants and loans for all City departments. NOT Finance.

Vesting this function with Planning and its staff is (was) logical and typical at the county and municipal level. Planning should have the resources, experience and knowledge to identify and apply for state and federal grants-in-aid to address community needs (housing, infrastructure, recreation, open space preservation, transportation, etc.)

Planning has three full time planners on staff with aggregate salaries of over $220,000 plus benefits. The administrator of Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation shares office space with Planning staff. Her salary is $75,000 plus benefits. It is these staff members who are charged with identifying, preparing and administering the city’s grant-in-aids.

These two departments also can (should) draw on other resources, including the city engineer, and the Recreation Department and Office of Community Development staff in developing applications for infrastructure and associated program aids.

Past Activities and Suggested Actions

When the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation department was first staffed it progressed an ambitious grant program. In the first two years (2008 & 2009) the department prepared several successful grants-in-aid including a state Environmental Protection Fund application to fund improvements to Waterfront Park, an application to NYS DEC to fund the city’s Urban Forestry Plan, sidewalk repairs, an application to Saratoga County to fund acquisition of the city’s Blue Way Trail head and, most notably, federal aid to build the Spring Run Trail.

These awards totaled in the $500,000 plus neighborhood. So, logically, I assume that the last city council – which authorized a new grant coordinator title in Finance – and the current council have reviewed the grant activities of the two departments charged since 2010 to identify what grants have been sought, their relative success and process of identifying grants-in-aids that address city needs and that are consistent with the city’s strategic plan.

Perhaps such grant histories can be found in Planning’s and Park’s respective Annual Reports.

Certainly the city should, if it has not, been preparing a least one state Environmental Protection Fund Grant every year or every other year, making sure that appropriate and eligible transportation improvement are included in the Capital District Transportation Committee’s Transportation Improvement Plan, et al.

Unless and until this is done and with the clear understanding of City Charter mandates and awareness of the major investment in existing staff already responsible for grants-in-aid, it seems premature at best to add staff to a third department to do what is already required of Planning and Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Commissioner Moran Proposes Requirement for Design Review Board Approval of Temporary Outdoor Dining Venues

A proposal brought before the Saratoga Springs City Council by Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran at the Council’s September 6th meeting would require all temporary outdoor dining areas to be subject to review and approval by the city’s Design Review Board.

This amendment to the City Code would provide more vigorous oversight to protect the esthetics of Saratoga’s historic downtown.

“It is important that as we adjust to our new normal, we also continue to support the Saratoga Springs Brand and all it stands for. Toward that end, as promised when we first rolled out our new outdoor dining program, the second season would introduce the DRB oversight so that Outdoor Dining and our long standing Sidewalk Cafe programs are in alignment. This legislation will do exactly that.”

Commissioner Moran

A public hearing on the amendment has been scheduled for the next City Council meeting on September 20.

Commissioner Sanghvi Responds to Blogger and Blogger Replies

Finance Office During Commissioner Madigan’s Term

Then Commissioner Madigan In The Finance Office
Michele’s Desk And Original Paint Job

Commissioner Sanghvi’s Office Currently

Right Side of Office
Left Side of Office



I emailed Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi inquiring about her transfer of $10,000.00 to an account for acquiring furniture. There is now $13,000.00 in that account. I also asked her about the decision to repaint her offices. The Finance office had acquired all new furniture and been painted two years ago after the fire in City Hall.

The following is her response to my emails and recent post and my reply.

Sanghivi: Dear Mr. Kaufmann, 

I will respond to the issues you’ve raised in a recent blog post. Please print this response verbatim. 

1. Furniture

When I joined office (sic)I realized Commissioner Madigan didn’t have a desk, per se. She had part of her desk and then a small conference table that sat at a right angle to serve as a desk. 

As we cleared up our deputy’s office, she needed extra storage so I gave her my storage units. We gave one of our cupboard storage to IT for their storage. One of the desks was given to Civil service for their use. We had a new position our executive assistant join (more on that later) and I gave the person Commissioner Madigan’s part desk. And I ordered an L shaped desk for my office and some storage shelves and drawers. 

Kaufmann: [As can be confirmed by the photos above, Commissioner Sanghvi has basically stripped the office of the Finance Commissioner of most of the furniture that existed when she took over occupancy of the space 8 months ago. Although the furniture was brand new, based on her response, there will be little if any of those furnishings remaining in that office.

Most troubling is her reluctance to be clear about exactly what items she will be replacing all this furniture with and the specific cost of each item. Here she refers to an L shaped desk and “some storage shelves and drawers”. Later she mentions wanting to change to a couch and a “seater setting”. When I asked her for specific information, she responded in an email, “Please feel free to FOIL the information.” Commissioner Sanghvi knows it routinely takes six weeks or more to get FOILed documents from the city.

These are figures one assumes that she calculated before she made the request to the Council to add $10,000 to her budget. They should be readily available.

This is a foolish and problematic response from her on many levels. I will eventually secure the figures so the public, in theend,will find out this information, and her reluctance to release the figures now only extends the life of the story, something she may regret. By denying me this information now and making me go through the FOIL process, she triggers concerns as to exactly how lavish her redecorating plan is. She also undermines her credibility about her commitment to transparency.]

Sanghvi: Commissioner Madigan also had a larger conference desk for visitors. When I set up an office, I found that style to be more confrontational than conversational. Not everyone is used to coming to city hall, many people are intimidated by it. So I wanted to change it to a couch and seater setting to make it more conversational, more inclusive. 

Kaufmann: [There is a reason that offices routinely have conference tables. While the Finance Commissioner occasionally meets informally with members of the general public, the vast majority of office meetings involve internal staff of the city to discuss fiscal matters. Such meetings require an efficient design to seat a number of people who commonly will need a surface on which to place laptops or writing pads.

Sorry to descend to snarkiness, but it is hard to imagine the city department deputies spread out over sofas and easy chairs engaging in discussions trying to resolve city fiscal issues while trying to balance laptops on their knees.

I spent a good deal of my career at meetings, and my priority was that they be as efficient as possible. The meetings I went to or ran were not social events designed to be “conversational.” They were supposed to be designed to minimize chit-chat and get stuff done.

Here again, Commissioner Sanghvi exposes her lack of understanding of the nature of her office. This is particularly troubling as she has been in her position for eight months now.]

Sanghvi: 2. Grants writer

I agree with Commissioner Madigan completely that we need more support with grant writing. We had spoken about this during our transition, and our plan was to consolidate grant management in Finance since it dealt with the management of reimbursements and such. However, other departments were not particularly receptive to the idea. This is the problem of the commission form of government. Sometimes good faith efforts by commissioners are seen as power grabs. That was not at all what she or I had in mind. She added the position, and we both fought for it but were told repeatedly that it was not supportable by some of the other departments. Finally, we worked with individual departments to help them with grant-writing monies that worked based on their needs. I still believe this is something that is of use to our city in finance, but I am only one vote. 

Kaufmann: [I’m having a hard time making sense of this. The position was adopted in the 2022 budget. Commissioner Sanghvi had the authority to simply hire the grant writer. She did not need approval from the current Council, and there was never any public discussion about who did or didn’t support this and why. Petty bureaucratic turf anxiety from unnamed colleagues (I understand Mayor Kim was adamantly opposed to the position) should not be an impediment to filling a position that even Commissioner Sanghvi admits is really needed.]

Sanghvi: Finally, with the money we did have in our budget, we hired an executive assistant. This is more of an issue of parity – the Mayor’s office, DPW, DPS (I believe they’ve used this position differently for many years now) all have executive assistants. When I spoke to the city council (all except Commissioner Scirocco since he was unwell at that time), they agreed all departments should have one.

Kaufmann:[Parity? Because they have one, I should have one? This mentality is how budgets become bloated. Staffing is supposed to be about efficient management of resources and not the dividing of spoils.]

Sanghvi: Commissioner Madigan, indeed, was very fruitful in her time at City Hall and we are working on bringing a lot of those projects to fruition right now such as the NYPA project about our street-lights, SIFI project about fiber. In addition we’ve added one of our own projects with Participatory Budgeting. As you may know, my position is only part time and while many other Commissioners are retired or are able to work full time for this role, I can’t feed my family on $14,500. My full time job as a professor at Skidmore requires my time and efforts too. Hence, we decided to hire an executive assistant. The position was discussed at city hall and in the civil service committee, the ad was posted by HR. Kindly do you (sic) research and feel free to look up the ad to learn more about the position. 

Kaufmann: [Commissioner Sanghvi had a responsibility to assess whether she had the time to do the job of Finance Commissioner before running for the office. If she had told the public that, if elected, she would have to hire a position that would cost the city $72,000 a year to fulfill her duties, voters might very well have voted for someone else. Even worse, is it possible she didn’t even consider the problem of not having the time to do the job properly before deciding to run?]

Sanghvi: 3. About Travel

I have been meeting and discussing capital budgets with all departments long before August. We’ve been having good open communications on recession clouds and our capacity to borrow. I have been very transparent about city finances from Day 1. 

I have also been working with our team on all issues related to finance and our budget while in India, often at 2 am at night. However, you asked why I went. It was not for a children’s book (thank you for the correction). I wrote a novel, which is being released by Harper Collins India in what I’m told will be the first lesbian romance novel in India. SUrely, you get what a monumental moment this is for LGBTQ rigts (sic) in a country of 1.4 billion people. 

Kaufmann: [I never asked Commissioner Sanghvi why she went to India. She has publicized her travel on her Facebook page.

I congratulate Commissioner Sanghvi on the publishing of her novel. I am, however, surprised that she thinks it might be the first such novel published in India. There is already extensive literature published in this genre.]

Sanghvi: And while this trip is for work reasons, I do want to point out for all our future posts about my travel – I travel to India as often as I can. Which means, sometimes it is twice a year. You see, my father is 78 years old. Average life expectancy in India is about 69 years for males. Because I’m a business professor, I did some simple math. If my father lives to about 90 (about 1 year longer than this (sic) father), and I visit him once a year, I will see him about 12 times before he dies. I came out to my family 20 years ago – India and US, for that matter, was a different landscape for LGBTQ rights 20 years ago. They stood by me and supported me despite the criticism and ridicule they faced in their community. The least I can do is maybe visit them more than 12 times before they die. So when I go to India in December, you will know why. 

Kaufmann: [I have no problem with Commissioner Sanghvi taking time off to travel to India. I am glad for her that she has such a supportive and loving family. My problem with her trip was its timing. It was done during the beginning of the crafting of the city budget for 2023. The departments submit their requested budgets to her office in August. Readers should understand that crafting such a budget is extremely challenging and time-consuming both in terms of the very extensive reviews and research and in terms of the political tensions it generates. With respect to the Commissioner, this was not the best time to be away.

What troubled me most, though, was her decision to advise citizens writing her that she would not be allocating time while away to answer their emails. In all the years I have been covering politics, I have never experienced an elected official who would publicly advise the citizenry that for some three weeks, they would not be taking the time to answer email inquiries.]

Sanghvi: Thank you for your keen interest in the minutia of city hall. You also sent me another email about the paint in my office: “I understand that you have repainted your office.  What color did you paint it and why did you have it repainted?”

Kaufmann: [As her offices were only recently painted two years ago as part of the city hall renovation, it seemed odd that they would be painted again, thus my question to her. I knew the office had been painted using historic colors to compliment the carpeting. I suppose it was trivial of me to have asked about her new color choice.]

Commissioner Sanghvi Refuses To Provide Break Down Of Costs Of Her New Furniture

A Well Appointed Office

I emailed Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi twice seeking the details of her projected $13,000.00 purchase of new furniture. I was asking what furniture she was purchasing and what was the expected cost of each item. When she did respond, it was as follows:

Please feel free to FOIL the information. 

September 1, 2022 Email From Commissioner Sanghvi