Mayor Kim’s Unconscionable Attack On Shelters of Saratoga

Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim falsely told area media that he first heard about the decision by Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) to withdraw from the plan to use the Senior Citizens Center as a low-barrier homeless shelter from the media and not from anyone associated with SOS.

In bitter remarks to the Saratogian Newspaper he stated, “Now for them to just walk away and not even tell us, seems to be less than forthright and trustworthy.” (see longer quote below along with link to news article)

My sources, however, tell me that on Friday morning, February 3, 2023, the SOS executive director, Duane Vaughn, and his board president, Kathy McNiece, went to city hall at 9:00 AM, as it opened, to inform Kim of their decision.

Unfortunately, Kim was not there. The two spoke with a number of people in City Hall, including at least two Commissioners. My sources tell me that Kim was informed of SOS’s decision later that morning by those in City Hall who had talked with Vaughn and McNiece and not by the media as he claimed.

Threats That Need To Be Taken Seriously

On Sunday morning, February 5, 2023, SOS executive director Vaughn wrote to members of the Council about threats made to him and his family:

From: “Duane Vaughn” <>
To: “Angela Rella” <>, “Ron Kim” <>, “Jason Golub” <>, “Dillon Moran” <>, “Minita Sanghvi” <>, “James Montagnino” <>
Sent: Sunday, February 5, 2023 2:53:28 PM
Subject: Duane from Shelters of Saratoga

Good afternoon,

I hope that you have not closed the door on conversations in regards to homelessness and Shelters of Saratoga.  I hope you understand that the most significant issue that came to rise in the last week was the personal safety of myself, my family and my board president.  We were threatened with physical violence and personal lawsuits.  This has completely shaken our home.  My wife considered going to a family member or a hotel.  Members of the community not only threatened my board president, as you know because the police are involved, but found my unlisted home phone number and address.  The threats were unbearable. We had days of no sleep and constantly looking over our shoulders.  I don’t have a team of lawyers and a police force.

We had to take a serious pause.  We must continue to educate and commit to total community buy-in.  However, I cannot compromise the safety of my family. I have saved every message and phone number that has called my office and my home just in case further threats arise.

An Intemperate And Reckless Reaction

A tempered and professional public figure, before making an attack on SOS would have contacted them first. Even if Kim had not been informed, he should have acted more prudently. Having dealt with the media for many years, they would have understood if Kim had responded to their inquiries by saying he would get back to them after he had reviewed the situation. Such a professional would have contacted SOS seeking to fully understand the evolving situation.

I would have liked to email Mayor Kim to ask him whether he had contacted Vaughn subsequently. As the Mayor never responds to my emails, I do not know, but experience suggests that he blames SOS for the failure of his plan and sees no need to reach out.

From the February 5, 2023 edition of the Saratogian.

When asked for comment, Kim seemed taken aback by the lack of communication from the Shelters of Saratoga in making the decision to back out without consulting with the mayor’s office or city officials.

“One, we’ve never been officially told of this. We’ve heard from news media,” Kim said.“So, I’m disappointed that neither Shelters staff nor their board saw fit to call the mayor’s office and say they’re pulling out,” Kim continued.“

So, I’m disappointed that neither Shelters staff nor their board saw fit to call the mayor’s office and say they’re pulling out,” Kim continued.

“Two, Shelters of Saratoga staff were the ones who were demanding that the city move forward from this. The last conversations I had with them, they wanted a 30-year lease, basically a commitment from the city. Now for them to just walk away and not even tell us, seems to be less than forthright and trustworthy,” Kim explained.

“So, I’m disappointed that neither Shelters staff nor their board saw fit to call the mayor’s office and say they’re pulling out,” Kim continued.

Kim appeared equally disappointed given how far into the process the two sides seemed to be in an agreement.

Kim also noted the city will plan to move forward with creating a shelter site, whether that includes Shelters of Saratoga or not.

“So, here’s what the city’s gonna do. I’m gonna name a task force,” Kim said.

“We’re gonna move forward with finding a site and more importantly finding a trustworthy partner to establish a shelter and navigation center in the city of Saratoga Springs, because it’s sorely needed and that’s what we’re gonna be doing,” Kim continued.

“We’re gonna choose the best-qualified candidate. Unfortunately, what it appears like based on my conversations with the staff at Shelters that they don’t seem to want to do it but we’re gonna find a candidate that can serve the population of homeless in Saratoga Springs,” Kim noted.

“You have my phone number. I would assume the Board of Shelters and their staff do too. They could’ve called me but I guess, I don’t know, maybe they lost it,” Kim added.

Blogger Requests Comptroller Investigation of Montagnino, Kim, and Rella for Violation of City Purchasing Policies

Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim, his Deputy Angela Rella, and Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino have violated the city’s purchasing policies in the hiring of attorneys to pursue their fight with Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. [ see the previous post for background on this dispute ]

This post is based on documents received from the city using the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

The Solicitation

City purchasing policy requires that the city seek at least three quotes from law firms when seeking to hire outside counsel.

A Request For Quotes (RFQ) was sent out on November 29, 2022,to hire counsel to represent the city to appeal a restraining order issued against city officials after Kim and Montagnino held a press conference in the wake of a shooting on Broadway . The RFQ included a deadline of December 1, 2022, by which time all proposals had to be delivered to city hall.

According to the documents I received, there were only two responses to the RFQ by the deadline. One of the respondents withdrew, citing a conflict of interest. That left only one respondent, a law firm located in New York City.

I contacted that law firm, Benno & Associates, asking if they had heard from the city regarding their proposal. They emailed back, saying they had heard nothing.

As apparently the city did not award work to the single respondent, best practices would have required the city to record internally why the proposal was rejected. Assuming the city provided all the FOIL documents to me, there is no record explaining why the Benno offer wasn’t accepted.

Kim and Montagnino Conveniently Ignore Required Deadline

In the February 1, 2023 edition of the Foothills Business Daily, Mayor Kim alleged that as the RFQ requires quotes from three vendors, and as the city received only two, that they were “required” to find a third. In the article, Montagnino concurs with Kim.

This conveniently ignores the fact that the city has established procedures addressing this situation which were ignored.

I spoke to the city’s purchasing agent. According to her, the requirement is that the city “seek” at least three quotes. Even if the city receives less than three responses to their solicitation, if one of them is fully responsive to the requirements in the RFQ, the city can still make an award.

The purchasing agent was quite emphatic that no proposals submitted after the deadline could be considered.

I was told that if no proposals received prior to the deadline are deemed acceptable, the city must issue a new RFQ and start the process again.

The purchasing agent told me that no one sought her advice on how to handle the RFQ.

Based on the FOIL documents, on December 9, 2022, some eight days after the deadline, James Montagnino wrote to James Knox of the law firm E Stewart Jones, Hacker, Murphy as follows:

Hi Jim!

“Here’s the RFQ and related paperwork.  The quicker we could get this the quicker we could move forward.  Many thanks, Jim.”

A reasonable person would deduce from this that Montagnino not only disregarded the deadline requirement, but he had also already made up his mind to hire the law firm before they even submitted their proposal, which would have included, among other things, the hourly rate they planned to charge the city.

The RFQ also required that all questions be directed to Angela Rella in the Mayor’s office. The RFQ process strictly limits communications with bidders to avoid improper favoritism. The reason that all questions regarding the RFQ have to be in writing is that this allows the city to inform all bidders of information provided by the city in a consistent and fair manner. Any question the city would answer would have to be shared with all the potential bidders.

It seems clear from the email that Montagnino engaged in exclusive discussions about the potential work with E Stewart Jones, Hacket, Murphy.

On December 13, 2022, E Stewart Jones, Hacker, Murphy submitted their proposal. At that point, it was twelve days beyond the deadline.

It is unclear if the failure to properly adhere to the city’s purchasing policies was due to ineptitude or a calculated act meant to deliberately circumvent those policies.

A Bungled RFQ Raises Questions Of Basic Competence

The actual RFQ put together by the Mayor’s office is a study on how not to solicit bidders.

The RFQ was sent by email to fifteen bidders. According to an interview Kim gave to the Foothills Business Daily, Kim’s office believed they needed a law firm that specialized in first amendment issues before the federal courts.

This explains why all but two of the solicitations went to law firms in New York City, Chicago, and Buffalo even though there are firms in the capital district that practice in the federal courts and that could address first amendment issues.

The problem is that the city did not need a law firm that would represent them in federal court because the due date referred to by Kim and Montagnino was to appear before a New York State court, not a federal court.

Five of the solicitations went to different lawyers at two law firms. Why one might ask, would you send more than one request for a quote to the same law firm?

The RFQ included that the total for the work could not exceed $15,000.00.

This would explain why almost all the law firms solicited did not bother to respond. The cost of travel would have made effectively representing the city for $15,000.00 problematic.

It is hard to understand how the person who crafted the RFQ didn’t see that it was unlikely to get bids from firms as far away as Chicago.

A Further Oddity

One of the solicitations went to a not-for-profit photo journalist organization.

The Usual Silence

I wrote to Kim, Rella, and Montagnino, asking if they could explain the RFQ process they followed. They never responded.

A Problematic Assertion

At the December 16, 2022, City Council meeting, Kim and Montagnino pressed their fellow City Council members to approve the hiring of E Stewart Jones et al. They claimed that the court date was looming, and if they didn’t secure a lawyer immediately, the city would have to “default.”

Courts routinely adjourn court dates for a variety of reasons. If the city had advised the court of their lack of counsel, it would be highly likely that the court would have set a new date to allow them time to seek representation. Montagnino, who is an attorney, had to be fully aware of this. This is not the first time that Montagnino has tried to exploit the public’s and his fellow Council members’ limited understanding of the law and how the courts operate to get what he wants.

An Investigation

I have submitted a formal request to the New York State Comptroller’s office asking that they investigate what appears to me to be a blatant violation of the city’s purchasing requirements.

Why This Is Important

City Purchasing policies are our bulwark against the misuse of city funds.

This is such a blatant violation of the financial controls of Saratoga Springs’ government that it raises the obvious question as to whether this is an anomaly or is part of a broader problem.

There is also the issue of a precedent. Even if this is the first time city officials have violated the city’s purchasing practices, it is reasonable to be concerned about future abuses.

The Documents

From: Ameer Benno
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2023 6:12 PM
To: trout21
Subject: Re: Proposal

I have no idea

On Sun, Jan 22, 2023 at 4:34 AM trout21 wrote:
I have a local news website covering Saratoga Springs events.
I FOILed the city for documents related to an RFQ issued on November 29, 2022 for legal services.
Only two proposals were submitted by the deadline. One was submitted by Harris Beach, a local law
firm. They withdrew their proposal citing a conflict of interest issue. That left your firm as the only

Do you know why the city did not accept your proposal?

Thank you,

Sent from Mail for Windows

A Discussion Of The Issues In Enhancing Union Avenue #3

[Jim Matinez Responds To Ed Lindner in this post. I invite anyone who would like to join in the conversation to send me their comments]

The attorney has plainly provided the prepared images and talking points developed by a consultant whose charge was to present a bike trail system from the standpoint of its proponents. It is important to ask if there is any recent verifiable data on the use of bicycles throughout this city? Have we heard from an expert witness on the impacts to the residents along these proposed lanes, and on the cost analysis impacts to the budgets of the Department of Public Works to maintain these proposals or from the Department of Public Safety who must have had to review these proposals regarding the impact that a reduction in vehicle loading on Union Avenue will have on Racecourse traffic twice daily during the August meet?  

Every seasoned city resident will attest to the double lane use both east and west on Union Avenue travelling towards the Union Avenue or Nelson Avenue gates at post time and the reverse loading of traffic traveling west towards Circular Street, half going south towards exit 13, the others going north into the city throughout the Thoroughbred meet. Will the exiting Nelson Avenue traffic traveling north that merges at Union Avenue to drive downtown be now forced to seek other routes like White Street as a cut through? This proposal to calm traffic by proposing single lanes is myopic and self-serving, turning a blinds eye to how this arterial street functions for automobile traffic during the summer track season. Have the required traffic studies that should have been prepared during the peak hours of the racing season been presented?  

Much like the design of stormwater drainage systems and exit corridor widths in structures, the required widths respond directly to the size of the volume or occupant load at peak times. The city presently defines its system of roadways by width and volume. Have we challenged their data and designations by altering volume loading on this arterial?  

Presently, the city boasts 156 miles of shared roadway. What percentage of those routes will be abandoned by cyclists for limited use seasonal bike lanes that will amount to less than 2% of those 156 miles of roadways?  

I initially posed several questions referencing the city’s Complete Streets Plan that embraced a bicycle inclusive community plan but failed to address a compliment understanding of the limited use of public right of way lands for sidewalks and compliance with the American with Disabilities Act for our residents. Sidewalk navigation (as defined by City Code) is a year-round activity for both ambulatory and non-ambulatory residents, yet have we overlooked them for a limited mostly seasonal cyclist population?  

In 2021, NYSMV recognized and responded to the cycling population that must navigate on our complete 156 miles of roadway by legislating a law that defines the shared use of roadways and the responsibilities of those participants. In 2022, Legislation was passed in NYS requiring instruction in “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety as Part of Drivers Pre-licensing Course”, yet where are the bicyclists with their newfound freedoms to be instructed on their responsibilities to share the road “with all the responsibilities of a licensed motor vehicle driver”?  

Most importantly, I question whether a community who is tasked with enforcing this new law has considered educating its cyclists as to its requirements. This is not an unfunded mandate, but an enforceable law. Conversely, when a new traffic control is installed, the intersection is flagged for months alerting the public of the change. Should this proposal also include an educational component by the municipality for drivers and cyclists alike given it proposes to increase the already segmented bike lanes without involving themselves into a risk management position to avoid liabilities? Has this law been enforced over the last several years, or at a minimum, have citations been issued as a learning tool to an inexperienced cycling population that may not realize that rules and responsibilities are in place which they are expected to adhere? Has the city conferred with its Risk Manager for an assessment regarding the current conditions at intersections and terminus points of the existing segmented bike lane experiment? 

In a preoccupied rush to construct seasonal bike lanes, competing with 98% of the roads in this city that are mandated to share the pavement, how is it that so many peripheral questions and potential collateral issues have not been a part of this pushed presentation? At the very least, shouldn’t the consultants provide the unfunded buildout costs beyond construction for our community residents as part of this discussion?  

Those of us who ride our bikes on Union Avenue, Lake Avenue and other city arterial roads from neighborhoods and feeder streets to and from points east around the Lake or to Fitch Road know well enough to avoid those congested times when vehicular traffic is at its peak. We choose alternate times and different routes sharing the road and shoulders as provided. This is what most cyclists will continue to do on 98% of city roads.  

As stated, Union Avenue, an arterial street should remain a double loaded four lane thoroughfare with a planted median strip (as a calming control and safety zone for pedestrians) that is first vetted by the Department of Public Works regarding feasibility with existing underground utilities. The existing residential parking lanes both north and south should remain and the turning lanes at Nelson Avenue and Circular Street should remain insitu. Openings at cross streets would be required. The current bicycle restrictions in City Park to safeguard the public should remain and the cycling public should be educated to the current enforceable NYSDMV Chapter 11 amendment regarding the shared use of our city’s roadways.

The Architect