City Council to Deputies: Merry Christmas–City Council to All Other City Employees: Bah Humbug

With little notice, Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran has put on his agenda for Tuesday night’s (December 6, 2022) City Council meeting a resolution that will raise the salaries and benefits exclusively for the five city Deputies. I am certainly not opposed to fairly compensating employees, but his resolution is disturbing for a number of reasons:

  1. The timing

2. The increases in salary and benefits are only for political appointees, the deputies.

3. There is no rationale for these salary and benefits increases

The Timing

Past Councils traditionally addressed Deputy salaries and benefits in an annual resolution passed well before the city budget was adopted, as those figures would have to be included in projecting city expenditures. Commissioner Moran put this proposal on the Council agenda on Friday (12/2/22), less than a week after the 2023 budget was passed and the tax rate was set on Monday (11/28/22), thus avoiding any discussion of these salary increases at any of the budget hearings. Finance Commissioner Sanghvi raised no objection to this addition to the budget at this Monday morning’s (12/5/22) agenda meeting when it was discussed.

Deputies Only

Moran’s proposed raises and increase in benefits apply only to the Deputies, not to any other city employees.

In the past, the Council would annually pass a “Resolution for Non-Union Full-Time Employees” setting salaries and benefits for Deputies but also for a list of City Hall positions that included, for instance, the Executive Assistants, the Human Resources Specialist, the Director of Risk and Safety, the Civil Service Coordinator, the City Attorney, etc. The city’s policy has been to keep benefits and raises for these employees in line with those negotiated for CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) employees. So, for instance, non-union full-time employees have been given an annual 2% pay increase and the same number of vacation days as the CSEA union employees.

This resolution put forward by Moran is unprecedented in that it separates the Deputies from the other non-union employees and grants these raises and benefits only to the Deputies who are now identified as “Executive Employees.”

Hopefully, readers realize that the Mayor and Commissioners are only paid $14,500, so although the charter does not indicate this, they are considered part-time. The charter states, though, that each Commissioner is entitled to a deputy. While wise Commissioners in the past have chosen many outstanding deputies with the knowledge and skill set to effectively run their departments, there are no requirements in the charter for who can be appointed a deputy: no degrees, no prior experience, no civil service tests…nothing. The charter does allow the Council to “establish appropriate qualifications for any deputy,” but no Council has done this so far. So these positions are, in the end, all political appointments. Commissioner Sanghvi’s deputy, for instance, was her campaign manager.

Four of the five current Deputies have no prior experience working in City Hall, and four have not yet worked a year in their jobs. I am told by reliable sources that Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Jason Tetu and Deputy Accounts Commissioner Tracey O’Connor wrote the original draft of Moran’s resolution.

Moran’s Proposal as of Monday Morning’s Agenda Meeting

I understand that Commissioner Moran has revised his proposal, and I would direct readers to the city’s website to see the latest version. The following is a comparison between the Deputies’ current benefits and those in Moran’s original proposal:

  • Current Base Salary for Deputies = $77,680.00 | Proposed = $102,500.00 (+32%)
  • Currently, the deputy salaries are uniformly the same| Proposed a Commissioner may increase his/her deputy’s salary if there are sufficient funds (no limit).
  • Currently Starting Employees Vacation Days = 10 | Proposed 21 Days (+110%)
  • Currently, no vacation days can be carried over at the end of the year | Proposed any unused vacation days can be carried over into the next year.
  • Currently, employees can only redeem cash for unused vacation accrued during the current year of employment | Proposed all vacation days accrued since the person was hired can be converted to cash when that person leaves city employment.
  • Currently, an employee leaving the city is eligible to convert 25% of their accumulated sick leave up to a maximum of 200 days into cash| Proposed the employee will receive full value for every sick day, and there is no limit to the number of sick days.
  • Currently, employees receive 6 personal days | Proposed employees will receive 8 personal days (+33%).
  • Currently, unused personal days can be converted to sick time | Proposed employees can roll over personal time to the next year.
  • Currently, unused personal time is lost | Proposed employees can cash in personal time at the end of their employment.

Problems Remain –Where’s The Data?

In spite of the modifications in Commissioner Moran’s proposal, essential problems remain.

I admit I do not know how much Deputies should be paid nor what their benefits should be.

Unfortunately, Moran’s resolution was not accompanied by any documentation showing how these figures were arrived at. I would think that before such changes would be proposed, there would be some sort of salary/benefit study assessing, for instance, what other municipalities pay for comparable positions and how this compensation relates to that of other positions in city hall. As far as I can tell, these figures were grabbed out of thin air.

And these other questions remain-why have the Deputies been singled out for improved compensation, and why was this done after the budget process had concluded.

Another Blow to City Hall Morale

Multiple sources have described to me the anger and frustration that this proposal has generated among the other non-union and CSEA (union) employees.

The current rates of inflation have placed strains on most people. If the proponents of this resolution wanted to further undermine the morale of the city’s employees who are already suffering under current management, they couldn’t have chosen a better weapon than this proposed resolution.

17 thoughts on “City Council to Deputies: Merry Christmas–City Council to All Other City Employees: Bah Humbug”

  1. Wow, just when I was beginning to think Commissioner Moran was one of the sane minds on this council. As you mentioned, it would be helpful to understand the rationale behind his proposals. As a former Executive Assistant to the Mayor, I would have been livid if the Deputy Mayor (who I absolutely respected and liked – still do) got this kind of increase and I got nothing.

    What is Commissioner Moran thinking? It would be nice if he shared that with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am surprised that Commissioner Moran and those who may be supporting his proposal to single out Deputies for special treatment have not thought about the resentment and divisiveness this might sow within their own departments let alone the rest of City Hall.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This truly is preposterous! The just approved budget called for a salary of $80,818 for the deputies. The first version of Commissioner Moran resolution called an increase to $102,000. The Council must have realized realized that the appearance of a three figure salary might call attention to this effort. Today’s resolution sets the new salary level at $98,000. That is still a $17,00 increase. If this resolution passes, this Council will be proven to be the most tone deaf, arrogant group of five ever to sit at that table.

    Chris Mathiesen

    Liked by 3 people

  4. So on January 1st, 2022…
    Ron Kim appointed Deputy Angela Rella
    Minita Sanghvi appointed Deputy Heather Crocker
    Dillon Moran appointed Deputy Stacey Connors
    Jim Montagnino appointed Deputy Jason Tetu…

    They worked for a few months for $79,000 and full benefits as enumerated above…and then decided they all deserved a raise and were given a blank check??

    Say what now?

    These 4 Deputies have zero experience or qualifications for their current positions and their work product demonstrates as much.

    It is widely known that the deputies are reviled just as much as the city council members who appointed them. They disrespect and disregard the experience and knowledge of the talented and loyal city hall employees who make up their departments on a daily basis. They stymie their departments ability to get the most basic functions done with their inability to work collaboratively or through the appropriate city channels. Not to mention the public shaming of city hall employees via the city council and their deputies when mistakes come up at the council table and they toss their employees under the bus to save face.

    All of this behavior has resulted in a steady departure of some of the most talented and capable employees in City Hall, as documented by this blog. Save for the DPW Commissioner and Deputy Joe O’Neil, the only duo on the council with an experienced deputy and respectful commissioner, these 4 deputies should be dead last on the list when it comes to pay raises.

    But here’s the thing.. there is only one way to stop the madness >>

    ***THE LOCAL REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC CITY COMMITTEES WILL START DOING ENDORSEMENT INTERVIEWS IN JANUARY/FEBRUARY TO DETERMINE WHO WILL BE ON OUR BALLOTS COME NOVEMBER OF NEXT YEAR – WE NEED SARATOGIANS TO STEP UP AND CHALLENGE THE MAYOR AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER FIRST AND FOREMOST, ACCOUNTS AND FINANCE AS WELL***

    Minimum qualification: A commitment to serving the city, not yourself.

    CONTACT:
    City Republican Committee: gopsaratoga@gmail.com
    Pat Tuz, Chair, Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee
    Pat.tuz@saratogadems.org
    Cell: 917-282-5297

    Liked by 3 people

  5. So for $72,500 we get 5 council members with no integrity or common sense it appears.
    They and their deputies are in charge of a 60 million dollar business, a very important business/community.
    Is now the time to change the Charter? and if not what would be tipping point to make a change?

    This is just getting worse every month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you don’t like what’s going on, the beautiful thing about our form of government is that you can replace your leaders on election day. Not just one of them. All of them.

      This power is eradicated with a city manager – and just look to the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy for how it’s been going with the strong mayor system.

      What could go wrong? Erastus Corning was mayor of Albany for over 40 years. Ask the families that underwent his idea of urban renewal how much of a voice they had; how much power they had when eminent domain came to their neighborhood.

      Revise and update the charter? Perhaps; if the new version is better than the current one.

      But throw it all away to a completely different form of government? No, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A bad mayor can’t be voted out?

        My biggest issue is having 15k volunteers run this city.

        This system has worked in the past but I think those days are over.

        Pay those 5 positions very generous salaries and focus on the qualifications for the salaries when you are voting. Maybe you would have a new pool of people interested in running because they could afford it for 2 years… or longer if deemed they were doing a good job. I worked for 10 years on 1 year contracts, my only job performance review was the renewal of another year. Worked great for me and the company.

        Full time job, very important for our community is only worth 15K?

        Maybe 5 of us should run to change that.

        Like

  6. I agree and disagree.

    Agree that it is getting worse every month.

    Disagree that changing the charter would help. Regardless of the form of government, we’d have the same City Council members making terrible decisions. Imagine the damage Ron Kim would do as a strong mayor. Let’s get good people on the next council, whether Democrats or Republicans.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I’m super surprised to read that this proposal is being introduced by commissioner Moran. He and Jason have been the only reasonable voices as this council struggles to mature. Dillon and I have hugged out our personal differences, so this is feedback should any member introduce this proposal.

    I have developed countless compensation plans in my career – leadership comp plans, individual contributor comp plans, salaried vs. hourly comp plans, part time comp plans, second/third shift comp plans, sales comp plans and probably some other forms of comp plans as well. They are difficult to gain consensus on, but they eventually shake out. I have never, ever seen such a proposal like this. Ever.

    If I brought this proposal to my peers on my executive leadership teams, I would be questioned on my decision making ability and capability to be in my role. Likewise, if I am ever brought a proposal like this, I will forever have a question in my mind about the competence of the executive bringing this proposal to my desk.

    These employees took a job with known salaries and benefits. Their salaries were not announced to the commissioners on January 1st. They didn’t open an envelope hoping for more but getting less like Clark Griswald did with his jelly of the month club bonus.

    Now, that said, regardless of experience, no person should ever be relegated to just 10 days of vacation. It’s simply my philosophy that counting vacation days to that minimal degree is stressful to navigate for an employee and their families. Increased amount of vacation time is important. HOWEVER, we did not have that degree of sick and personal days. The problem with aligning so many personal days is that they can’t be strung together for the employees benefit. The problem with sick days is that they are a target to be used or not used. The problem with carry over is employees get burnt out if they are not taking care of their paid time off needs.
    So, increasing the total number of days available for not reporting to work to an appropriate amount is important. Call them what you want, but agree on an appropriate number of days while keeping in mind there are 11 paid holidays as well.

    Maybe a few tweaks to the current compensation for this level of employee is warranted. It certainly should not be solved with anything even close to this plan. There has never been trouble attracting employees for these roles, the proposed is nothing more than a tax payer gift. It can’t happen.

    Where was this plan during the budget cycle? So much discussion about how to staff the new fire station. This is a $125,000 proposal in salary increases. Then there is the expense of layering in the value of PTO sell back expenses. I would like to know the potential of this expense based on historical carry over data (even though it’s 100% based on new employee behavior). It can also be derived based on total PTO remaining in a deputies bank as of today and upcoming approved time off for holidays which indicates intent of carry over behavior.

    I’ll leave the morale issues to those who are informed. I would only be speculating what an employee may feel about this plan.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Because the Commission form of government divides executive responsibilities among five elected and five appointed officials, there has always been a certain level of dysfunction and redundancy not seen with other types of local government. There are no safeguards written into the Charter to prevent that dysfunction from escalating to the point where we seem to be headed this year.

    I have never been a big fan of Commission government. I think that the community at large should have a serious, sober discussion of whether or not there should be a drastic change in governance in the future. For now, I would NOT advocate for Charter change any time soon. We need to recover from the most recent imperfect Charter change proposals and from the craziness of the present Council
    .
    In the meantime, I would suggest what might be considered a radical change regarding Deputies. Instead of giving the five deputies a $17,000 salary increase, I suggest amending the City Charter to ELIMINATE all five deputy positions. The position of Deputy Commissioner was not in the original 1915 Charter but was incorporated years ago in simpler times. The position of Deputy Mayor was established only twenty years ago in 2002. The positions of all five deputies and their departments have evolved and changed so much that they no longer resemble the original job descriptions.

    I suggest establishing the position of Assistant Mayor who will be appointed by the elected Mayor and who will serve during that Mayor’s term in order to help cover the various official and ceremonial duties that must be carried out by that office. An appropriate salary can be determined.

    I suggest that the person currently serving as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works be given a title that better describes the serious responsibilities of that position. The Public Works General Manager would be hired by the DPW Commissioner after consultation with the Human Resources Director under the auspices of the Civil Service System and after meeting minimum requirements as established by Civil Service. It would be a permanent position with a salary consistent with the level of responsibility of that job title.

    I would suggest that all five departments can function well without appointed deputies trying to act as department administrators. Public Works, Public Safety, Finance and Accounts all have career employees who can take over most administrative duties that are now being performed by the deputies. If there is a need for a part-time or full time permanent employee to help complete administrative staffing needs, these positions can be established and the qualifications be determined through the Civil Service System. There may also be a need for a part-time appointed position to help the Commissioners with legislative and political duties. It is especially important to separate the political and legislative duties from the department administrative responsibilities.

    These proposed revisions would help to take politics out of the daily operations of our local government. The permanent employees would no longer have to worry about sudden changes every two years brought about by individuals who have had no experience managing the respective departments. The Mayor and the Commissioners would be better able to separate their department oversight duties from their legislative and political roles. The money saved by eliminating deputies could be used to improve the pay of those who actually have been running City Hall for years. Also, the savings could be used to bring salaries of the Mayor and the Commissioners to a more realistic level.

    What a great way to improve efficiency, integrity and morale!

    Chris Mathiesen

    Like

    1. Any form of gov’t is only as good as the people elected period! The present majority party is ill equipped to screen anybody or in this case anything to run for elected office.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Chris—Thank you for your interesting suggestions regarding the deputy positions. I don’t think, though, that any of this would require a charter change. The city charter, as I read it, does not require deputies nor does it contain any job descriptions for those positions. The charter only says “The Mayor and each Commissioner shall be entitled to such deputies and employees as the Council may determine.” The charter further states “each deputy shall serve at the pleasure of…the Council member making the deputy’s appointment. The Council may establish appropriate qualifications for any deputy.” (section 2.6) As far as I can see, tweaking the Deputy positions as you have suggested could be done simply by Council action with perhaps, as you mention, the involvement of the Human Resources Administrator and consistent with Civil Service law. Given that these current Council members, during their first year in office, have already added administrative positions to their departments with little explanation as to what these people will actually do, it seems unlikely that they will ever consider any of your suggestions.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I disagree with Jane. To eliminate the Deputies would require changing the wording of section 2.6 of the Charter titled ‘Deputies and employees’ and eliminating paragraph 2.6.1 titled Deputies. The Charter would have to be amended.

        Deputy Commissioners and Deputy Mayors who continuously straddle the border between their political/legislative and their administrative duties to various degrees undermine the integrity and operations of City government. It has been my observation that the Deputies have been a major part of the serious morale problem among career City Hall employees. We all deserve better.

        Chris Mathiesen

        Like

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