Letter from Commissioner Dalton and Mayor Kelly Re: Saratoga Hospital Accepting NYC Patients

This title is a bit inaccurate as Saratoga Hospital will be accepting patients from other communities in our state as well as New York City as the need arises.

I applaud Commissioner Dalton’s and Mayor Kelly’s letter. All New Yorkers are our neighbors. With hospitals in New York City overwhelmed and the courageous doctors and staff being pressed to the breaking point, we reach out our hand.

Saratoga Springs Honors First Responders and Hospital Staff

Neighbors On White Street Clap For First Responders

This is a link to a WNYT news story on Saratoga Springs Police and Fire honoring Saratoga Hospital staff (This video did not embed. Maybe WNYT is blocking this function?).

Let’s all practice social distancing, hand washing, etc. Remember that our failure to protect ourselves puts the people who must save us into danger.

How To Access Saratoga Springs City Council Meetings

Attend From Home: The City Council will be meeting via Zoom throughout this period of social distancing. Find out how you can stay connected.

In Saratoga Springs:

Tuesday’s City Council meeting will be held virtually on Zoom and streamed on the City’s website for live-viewing.  

Members of the public can also participate in the Public Hearings via Zoom, and submit public comments to the Council via email.

Playground & recreation equipment have been closed.  

City parks are NOT closed. They are open and available for residents to enjoy – getting fresh air and being outside safely is important for everyone’s overall well-being and mental health.

Whether you are in a park, downtown, or in your neighborhood, social distancing measures should always be followed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Latest Developments Of Saratoga County Pay Controversy: I Don’t Know Where To Begin!

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The County has now retroactively withdrawn the 50% raises for all but forty employees.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 Apparently, while the money is being withdrawn, they are still going to hold the Deputies to the work limit provision.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.

While there is no number listed to call the “command center” 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.

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 McNamara, 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.

Good News: VLT Money Is Back

Press Statement

March 31, 2020
Restoration of VLT Aid in the 2020-20201 Budget Process
Contact: michele.madigan@saratoga-springs.org or 518-526-9377

Today the City of Saratoga Springs received news that the elimination of VLT aid to all municipalities outside of Yonkers was rejected/omitted by the NYS Assembly and Senate. The restoration of VLT Impact Aid in the 2020-2021 State Budget is a very positive outcome at this stage in the state budget process especially as we manage through the COVID-19 related fiscal uncertainties and hard choices confronting Saratoga Springs. I want to thank Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and my colleagues Mayor Meg Kelly and Commissioner Robin Dalton for their efforts to protect this crucial revenue stream for our City. As I have previously stated, the Finance Department is working closely with the entire City government to minimize any disruption to essential City services and to protect our employees, citizens, and taxpayers. The restoration of VLT Impact Aid – which is approximately 4.27% of our projected revenues for the year – will help us to meet these challenges. 
 
The need for support covering the costs of hosting VLT facilities will continue for as long as we are hosting these facilities, and in the face of the current economy, this aid will be critical to our ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens, visitors, and taxpayers.  I would also like to thank all those in State leadership with the foresight to understand our message and our needs.

Thank you

Michele Madigan

Commissioner of Finance

City of Saratoga Springs

TEMPORARY LOCATION 15 Vanderbilt Avenue

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

518-587-3550 

Times Union Story Adds More Insight To Saratoga County Pay Debacle

Wendy Liberatore has written a terrific story on the debacle over Saratoga County’s time and a half raises.  Fortunately, the Times Union has raised its pay wall so readers can access it through this link to the full story. 

The story focuses on Marcy McNamara who is the County’s Director of Human Resources.

In a recording of the March 17 Law and Finance Committee meeting Ms. McNamara offers a series of inaccurate and dubious statements. 

At one-point Ms. McNamara credits herself (she earns $119,000.00/year and will receive the special pay increase) with the idea of increasing employee salaries citing that it “…creates a better, more manageable situation so everyone is not faking sick…”

“[Without the raises] you would get half of the staff saying they need to be on leave”

“It’s an employee relations move, we wouldn’t have staff in the offices”

For a person who is the head of Human Resources, her attitude toward the employees of the county is an eye opener. Are the county employees so poorly motivated and unprofessional that without a time and a half raise they would desert their duties and call in sick en mass? Do her comments apply to herself and the other salaried staff who are also receiving these raises?

Contrast this with the employees in Saratoga Springs who are soldiering on despite the risk and with no special pay incentives. I see police cars regularly driving our streets and when I go to the transfer station with my trash and recycling, the regular staff is always there.

Our county has many outstanding people serving us. If there is poor morale among the county’s employees the fault appears not to be with the employees but with the attitude of management.