It is hard to avoid hyperbole in describing the descent of Saratoga County’s government into chaos.
The County has now retroactively withdrawn the 50% raises for all but forty employees. They are going to recover any moneys of the now unlucky employees of the County who may or may not have actually gotten that money in a pay check yet.
The Deputies in the Sheriff’s Department had been required to agree to not take any outside employment as part of the original bonus agreement. Apparently, while the money is being withdrawn, they are still going to hold the Deputies to the work limit provision.
In the meantime, the employees who will continue to receive these moneys are part of something they are calling the COVID-19 Command Center.
So I went to the Saratoga County website and attempted to look up the COVID-19 Command Center. The search turned up one hit. What was that hit?
It was a single sentence from a statement by Preston Allen, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, regarding the County’s efforts to combat the virus. In his statement he assured the public that:
The only employees getting time and a half are those who are working in our COVID-19 command center. This group varies day to day but is on average staffed with 40 employees.Preston Allen
What are the duties, responsibilities, and activities of those working in this “command center?” There is nothing on the website to tell us. Who are the 40 employees staffing this “command center” who are enjoying this time and a half pay and what are their positions? Nothing.
As there is a County COVID-19 hotline number listed, I decided to call it. Granted, I was calling it at 8:00 PM, but one of the reasons given for the raises was the 24/7 burden the County was enduring in dealing with this crisis. I let the phone ring for over five minutes. Not only did no one answer the phone but there wasn’t even a recorded message. Further research uncovered that the hotline operates from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
So I am afraid that if you want to call the Saratoga County COVID-19 Command Center, unless you know someone important, that will not be possible outside of regular business hours.
The County Takes On Its Morale Problem
In a previous post I documented the disparaging remarks about county employees made by the Saratoga County Human Resource Director, Marcie McNamara.
It is truly hard to imagine what granting a generous pay raise to the County staff and then not only withdrawing the raise but clawing back any money they may have already gotten will have.
So what did the County do to attempt to address the morale problem? They paid an Albany based public relations firm to issue a press release and produce a video. You can try to access the video through the link in the release, but you will learn that you need a password to view it.
The following is the press release. I don’t think the release needs any analysis from me except to note the presence of bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman. It speaks for itself. The only thing missing is what the County, that is what we, the taxpayers, paid for it.
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2020
Media Contact: Ridge Harris, 518-378-6530
SARATOGA COUNTY WORKFORCE GETS THANKS FROM NFL LEGEND, REALITY TV STAR, AND LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS
Ballston Spa, NY – Saratoga County employees and others working on the front lines to stop the spread of COVID-19 today received a round of thank you messages from local elected officials and nationally recognized figures.
“On behalf of the community I’d like to thank you and your attempts to keep our neighborhood and our families safe,” said NFL Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, a Saratoga County resident and former head coach of the New York Giants.
“Words ‘thank you,’ ‘good job,’ and ‘atta boy’ are not near what you deserve,” said Duane “Dog” Chapman, star of the reality TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter.
The video included messages from county, state and federal elected officials directed to the county workforce who are working around the clock to support their neighbors during this pandemic.
VIDEO LINK: Saratoga County: COVID-19 Workforce THANK YOU!
Don’t Blame Everyone Associated With County Government For This
It would be unfair to blame everyone serving on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors for this debacle. While the original vote that created this debacle was unanimous, ten Supervisors have written several times to Chair Preston Allen calling for a meeting to address all this. Unfortunately, although they represent a majority of the Board of Supervisors’ weighted vote [for most business conducted, a Supervisor’s vote is recorded as the population of the town/city they represent] and could pass a resolution, to force a special meeting a majority of the actual number of Supervisors is needed. To date they have been unable to secure the 12 votes needed for this. It’s quite stunning and sad, I think, that given the degree of ineptitude the County has exhibited in dealing with this crisis that not even half of the Saratoga County Supervisors apparently see this as a problem.
It is also critical to acknowledge that there are many highly dedicated people who work for the County. It is unfortunate that they should suffer because of the stunning ineptitude of the management.
All of this Is Rooted in the Violation of the Open Meetings Law
The reason we know so little about all of this is that the Board of Supervisors has transferred its power to make staffing and payroll decisions to a special committee that meets entirely in secret.
One odd item in Chair Preston Allen’s public statement was his description of the committee.
In accordance with the resolution adopted by our Board of Supervisors, I hold a weekly meeting of the Chairs of our Law and Finance and Human Resource Committees and County Administration to determine the effectiveness of the current employee matrix, and it is adjusted accordingly to maximize the work we do for you while protecting taxpayer money.Preston Allen
The resolution establishing the committee included Human Resources Director Marcie Anderson, who originally benefitted from the committee’s payroll decision, as a member. Her name is now absent. Has she been expunged from the committee?
Without any notice of when this very powerful committee meets or any record of what happens at their meetings, the public is left in the dark about what decisions are being made as to how to use tax dollars and County staff to address this crisis.