Transparency Takes A Hit As Mayor’s Office Fumbles Notices and Proper Agenda

Agendas Are Supposed To Include Public Hearings

Apparently, three public hearings were supposed to be held at the January 3, 2023, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. For some reason, only one was listed when the agenda appeared on the city’s website, but all three took place anyway.

According to an opinion offered by City Attorney Tony Izzo at the Council meeting, if the city publishes a legal notice for a hearing in an area newspaper, the city can go ahead and hold the hearing even if the hearing notice does not appear on that meeting’s agenda. I know that I do not have the time to scour the legal notices in newspapers every day to educate myself as to what business will be transacted at City Council meetings. I rely on the agenda published on the city’s website.

On the agenda for the January 3, 2023, meeting, only one hearing was listed. As the following videos document, City Attorney Tony Izzo is called to the microphone and assures the Council that because the legal notices in the newspapers were published, the Council can ignore the fact that they were not all on the agenda published on the city’s website.

The Mayor’s office is responsible for putting the Council’s agenda together. Of course, no one on the Council asks how the items were left off the agenda and what actions the Mayor’s office will take to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Nor did Mayor Kim apologize for the lack of transparency about the evening’s agenda.

The Mayor’s Office Couldn’t Even Get All the Legal Notices Up Properly

To add insult to injury, not only wasn’t a public notice of the hearings put on the agenda but it turns out the city also failed to correctly publish the legal notice for one of the three hearings.

As Izzo is explaining how the Council can proceed with the hearings, a voice from off-camera advises him that he is wrong about the publishing of the three hearings because one of the legal notices was late.

Izzo apologizes, saying he was misinformed.

Again, no one on the Council asks how this happened and what procedures will be implemented to avoid this in the future.

The Mayor never acknowledges the failure of his office in this matter and simply proceeds with the meeting as though there were no issues.

Complicating matters was a confusing discussion about which hearing wasn’t properly noticed. I have listened to the video repeatedly, and I have been unable to figure out how the Council still had three hearings when the legal notice for one was not published in time.

The Mayor Seems Oblivious To The Importance of the Agenda

The Mayor’s cavalier attitude to failing to effectively notify the public regarding public hearings is very troubling. I distinguish here between what is legal and what is effective. It may be legal to have a hearing without it being published in the city’s agenda, but no one can reasonably argue that the public was provided with an effective notice.

Part Of A Broader Problem

This Council has an unprecedented number of last-minute additions regularly added to their agendas during meetings. Such an occurrence was rare in past administrations.

Agenda items are only supposed to be added during a Council meeting because they are so urgent they cannot wait until the next scheduled meeting. Our charter allows for new items to be added but requires a public explanation as to why they were added at the last minute and requires a vote by the Council to allow the item.

This Council never requires a member to defend a last-minute addition to the agenda.

This repeated abuse of adding items at the last minute deprives the public of knowing before the meeting what the Council plans to act on.

With respect, Mayor Kim constantly talks about transparency but demonstrates an unfortunate selectivity in his application of this important value.

When Is a Contract Not a Contract?

Since the Council did away with their pre-agenda meeting this month, another embarrassing item slipped onto the Mayor’s agenda. Item three on Kim’s agenda called for a discussion and vote to authorize the Mayor to sign a lease agreement with the Saratoga County Arts Council. Unfortunately, no such organization exists as their new name is Saratoga Arts Inc. As an attorney (as the Mayor so often reminds us), you’d think Kim would understand the importance of having the correct title on a lease agreement. So while the Council approved a lease with an organization that does not exist (Saratoga County Arts Council), there is currently no legal agreement with Saratoga Arts Inc. Maybe they’ll get it right at the next meeting?

Mayor Kim Has Failed Again to File Financial Campaign Reports as Required by the New York State Board of Elections

document format with electronic device vector illustration design

New York State requires political candidates to periodically file reports with the New York State Board of Elections disclosing contributions they receive and expenditures they make. Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim has repeatedly failed to file the reports as required.

Readers may recall that Ron Kim failed to report the required financial information to the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) in 2021 when he ran for office. As reported on this blog, he alleged that he had sent the BOE the required information but that a technical problem at the state Board of Elections was why his report did not appear on the BOE website. At the time, I contacted the state BOE, and they assured me that if he had submitted his report electronically as required, it would have been posted on their website. They assured me they were not experiencing any technical problems.

I recently visited the BOE website to check on Kim’s reporting on contributions and expenditures for 2022. There were none. I know he had at least one fundraiser this year. Even if he received no contributions, he was required to report on any expenditures. He had to have spent at least some money to have organized his fundraisers.

I have filed a complaint with the BOE.

Kim and Montagnino Squander More City Money

Trouble Is Coming

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino and Mayor Ron Kim’s thirst for media coverage has prompted them to use the most intemperate language in their continuing conflict with Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. This last week (December 18-24), they have been especially shrill.

Their willingness to throw thousands of dollars into vanity suits is emblematic of their thoughtless mismanagement of our city and taxpayer dollars.

A Lost Opportunity To Resolve The Controversy Between the DA’s Office And Mayor Kim and Commissioner Montagnino

In contrast, Saratoga County DA Karen Heggen’s remarks to the media have been temperate and professional, and she has repeatedly reached out to Mayor Kim and the City Council to try to resolve their differences.

Regrettably, her efforts have been ignored in spite of a December 6, 2022, resolution passed unanimously by the Council that directed Commissioner Montagnino, Deputy Mayor Angela Rella, and City Attorney Tony Izzo to meet with her as she had asked. The purpose of the meeting was to be to discuss the temporary restraining order issued against them after Kim and Montagnino held a controversial press conference following the shootings on Broadway. Readers may remember that at that Council meeting, the Mayor announced that he would write to the DA to arrange the conference.

The Poorly Timed Letter

Several weeks later, it came to light that not only had no meeting taken place as directed by the Council, but no one had even contacted the DA. This should have been embarrassing to the Mayor.

On December 19, 2022, some two weeks later, and with just three days until the hearing before the judge to review the temporary restraining order, Tony Izzo sent the letter below, finally asking for a time for the meeting.

Unfortunately, it was sent via the U.S. Postal service. Not surprisingly, it arrived at the DA’s office on December 23, which, of course, was the day after the scheduled hearing before Judge Freestone for the temporary restraining order.

Given how late this letter was in being drafted, one would have expected that it would have been sent via email or hand-delivered. That, of course, would have implied that there was a serious interest in actually meeting.

Here is a copy of the letter.


Mayor Kim’s New Explanation

In the December 23, 2022, edition of the Daily Gazette, Mayor Kim offered yet another explanation as to why they had not met with the DA in spite of the direction of the Council to do so.

“Kim said Wednesday evening the city was unable to have discussions with Heggen because it needed to secure outside counsel first which is a “difficult process.”

Daily Gazette

So he alleges they could not meet without a lawyer? Of course, the city has an attorney. In fact, all three representatives of the city who were to meet with Heggen are attorneys.

Readers may recall that at the December 6 Council meeting, where the Council directed that the meeting be set up, not only was there no mention of the need for outside counsel, the discussion emphasized the need for an informal and non-confrontational approach to try to resolve their differences.

If the Mayor had advised his colleagues on a timely basis that he would be unable to arrange the meeting due to a lack of counsel, this recent explanation might enjoy some credibility. He didn’t. In fact, he never communicated this rationale to the Council at all –unless you consider the story in the Gazette a legitimate vehicle for updating his colleagues.

There’s A Consistent Theme Here

I wrote about the failure of Mayor Kim and Commissioner Montagnino to carry out the wishes of the Council in a previous post, so I am not going to go through the full history again here.

I can only observe that, whether officially directed to or not, typically, most officials would have felt impelled to respond to the DA’s repeated requests to meet to at least maintain the appearance of being reasonable and civil, even if they had no intention of really engaging in a productive dialog at the meeting. It is a testament to both Kim and Montagnino’s narcissism that they have instead simply ignored the requests.

Heggen Shifts

In the meantime, the DA’s office has hired outside counsel and altered its legal strategy. They notified Supreme Court Judge Dianne Freestone that they would allow the temporary restraining order to expire. They have now brought a new action called an article 78.

This new action narrows the focus to just Kim and Montagnino rather than all city employees and Council members. The restrictions on Kim and Montagnino would end in 60 days or once a grand jury has completed its work in determining whether to charge anyone in the November 20 shootout.

Heggen’s Offer

In addition to bringing the Article 78 lawsuit, attorney Karl Sleight on behalf of the DA, sent a letter to the city dated December 20, 2022, offering a simple solution to resolve the DA’s concerns.

Basically, it requested that the city follow the police department’s manual, which requires that the police chief have the sole responsibility to manage the release of information to the media during ongoing investigations.

Prior commissioners have uniformly followed this policy and supported this role for the police chief.

Montagnino has responded by attempting to confuse the issue by asserting that the police department manual is only relevant to the internal workings of the police department. As an elected official, even though he oversees the police department, he asserts that it does not cover him. He claims the right to disregard the manual.

The real question, which he would like to avoid, is not whether he is personally required to follow the manual but whether the requirement that the chief manages the release of information of an ongoing investigation is a good policy that should be followed.

Sleight’s letter again stated the DA’s desire to meet with representatives of the city.

The Belittling Of The Police Chief

Unfortunately, none of the media has asked the basic question, which is, why not allow the police chief to assume his historic role as the gatekeeper for information regarding ongoing investigations? Our chief has decades of experience to draw on.

What is the problem? Why not honor the DA’s request?

At the risk of sounding snarky, I believe the primary reason that Montagnino and Kim marginalize the city’s police chief is that they want the media coverage for themselves. They also have an exaggerated faith in their own expertise. Who needs a police chief when you have Montagnino and Kim available?

Being Right Legally Does Not Mean Litigation Is The Best Way Forward

When Jane and I built the addition to our home, the company that was supposed to tile the floor did a miserable job. The tiles were canted and uneven. The resin they used failed (fortunately), and the tiles were not secured to the floor.

We considered suing the company, but the cost of a lawsuit exceeded the cost of redoing the floor.

So the point is that being right legally does not always make it smart to litigate. The cost/benefit issue does not seem to concern Kim and Montagnino when it’s the public’s money they are spending.

Montagnino and Kim Are Happy To Spend Your Tax Dollars

I do not know who will prevail in the most recent lawsuit between the city and the DA.

Among the DA’s arguments are that improperly releasing evidence jeopardizes the right of defendants to a fair trial as required by our Constitution. She argues that such actions jeopardize her ability to enforce the law to protect our citizens from criminals.

Montagnino and Kim contend that elected officials have the authority to determine what the citizens need to know and that they were simply exercising their Constitutional right to free speech by releasing evidence and discussing the shootout.

Who would legally prevail is important, but if the central issue is, as they claim, the need to inform the public regarding the shootout, which I think it should be, then why not allow the police chief to carry out his duties as proscribed in the police manual and move on? Is the police chief not capable of carrying out his duties?

Adding to the dubious need to litigate is that DA Heggen is only seeking restraint until the grand jury completes its work on the case which should be in the near future.

I know that Montagnino and Kim were stung and embarrassed by the judge’s decision to issue a restraining order. They would very much like to prove to the public that they were right and the DA and the judge were wrong. It is now clear that they are ready to spend as much as it may cost of city money to litigate.

I doubt very much that they would indulge themselves in this kind of litigation if they had to pay for it themselves, but they are perfectly happy to spend the public’s money.

As Finance, Commissioner Minita Sanghvi is supposed to be the gatekeeper for the city’s money. As such, she should at least have urged caution in pursuing litigation while other options were available. Unfortunately, she was the swing vote to authorize Kim and Montagnino to engage yet another law firm to pursue their vanity suits.

Other Damage To Consider

During all of this, the DA has demonstrated professional restraint. Her correspondence to the Council has been sober and conciliatory. Her comments to the press have been free of invective.

In contrast, Kim and Montagnino have engaged in the most intemperate, shrill personal attacks on DA Heggen.

Consider these remarks by Montagnino as reported by the television station WRGB.

“This is a shameless abuse of our legal system and an embarrassment for the people of Saratoga County. More than a month has past since the shooting incident on Broadway. Despite the fact that the crime was captured by multiple high-definition cameras, not a single arrest has been made and not a single charge has been filed. It’s time for the DA to end the partisan political sideshow and either do her job or ask that a special prosecutor be appointed to do it for her.”

Commissioner Montagnino to WRGB

Mayor Kim has made similar statements.

Commissioner Montagnino and Mayor Kim, There Is Something Called a Grand Jury.

Would that it were all as easy as Montagnino and Kim would have us think.

In the state of New York, grand juries are required in cases where a person is charged with a felony.

This is from the New York State Unified Court System’s website:

Indictments are handed down by the Grand Jury. As the jury of inquiry, the Grand Jury hears the evidence against the defendant presented by the prosecutor and decides if the evidence presented is sufficient for an indictment.

NYS Unified Court System

Both Kim and Montagnino are attorneys. Montagnino lists in his biography that at some point in his career, he was actually a prosecutor of some kind.

They should know that to pursue a felony case, a grand jury must first issue an indictment.

The cynicism of his and Kim’s attacks on Heggen is breathtaking both in terms of their vitriol and in terms of their cavalier misrepresentations. What makes great sound bites does not make responsible law enforcement.

Securing an indictment and then a conviction that will withstand an appeal is a serious and demanding business that takes time. It involves the methodical gathering of evidence and the interviewing of witnesses. It involves the careful and challenging determination of what specific charges to bring before the grand jury once the investigation has been completed. Haste must be restrained in the interest of thoroughness to be successful.

We know very little about exactly what occurred the night of the shootout, as Montagnino should well realize. While the video evidence makes clear who fired the guns, it does not tell us how this all arose. Was the deputy sheriff defending himself, or did his actions precipitate the violence? Who was involved in this altercation, if anyone, beyond the two men who fired the guns? Were the men properly permitted to carry guns?

Both men involved in the shootout have been seriously injured. They represent no ongoing threat to public safety.

Of course, Kim and Montagnino never entertain the possibility that their actions in holding a press conference within 12 hours of the shooting might have contributed to how long the process of getting an indictment takes.

Accusing Heggen of some kind of malfeasance because there have not as yet been charges and arrests, as Montagnino and Kim have done, is the worst kind of cheap politics.

A responsible prosecutor is not bullied into rushing, and a responsible elected official would not exploit people’s ignorance by pressing for actions, which for the case to be successful, he knows must be done properly and take time. A responsible city official would urge the public to be patient and let law enforcement do its job.

Yet More Money For Outside Counsel

I understand that Mayor Kim has now asked the outside counsel who the city has hired to work on this case to pursue recovering their attorney fees. Attorneys I have spoken with are skeptical as regards the city’s chances for success in this.

Of course, the city is now paying for this legal work as well.

These Chickens Are Going To Come Home

This is not the first time Kim has squandered public money on unnecessary litigation and engaged, along with Montagnino, in intemperate public rants. This pattern, coupled with the attack on the city’s insurance carrier by trying to block the settlement in the Wales case and refusing to pay them the deductible the city owed, sends the worst possible message to the insurance companies who underwrite the city.

What insurance company would want to underwrite a city that demonstrates the excesses of Montagnino and Kim?

Actions have consequences, and I believe that this city is going to find that convincing future insurers to underwrite the city is going to become increasingly challenging.

Trouble is on the way.

Poisoning Public Discourse

Most people would like their public officials to act with dignity and grace. Our politics are already stressed, as evidenced by the culture wars in Washington, D.C.

Taunting the DA through the media, as Montagnino and Kim have been doing, may get them on television, but it only contributes to the deterioration of our political discourse.

This city needs less drama and better governance.

Past Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen Weighs In On Finding A Solution To The Caroline Street Violence

[JK: This is a guest post by Chris Mathiesen. He served three terms as Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner from January, 2012, to December, 2017.]

The proposal put forth by Commissioner Montagnino to have the City Council endorse the practice of regularly commenting on liquor license renewals and new applications for on-premise sales is not without merit.  It is a way of slowly, incrementally achieving the goal of attaining an earlier last call hour.  A better solution would be for more responsible regulations to be set City-wide, county-wide or state-wide but that apparently is not possible at this time.

Since November of 1993, the SLA has utilized a 500 Foot Law which applies to establishments that are located within a distance of 500 feet from three other businesses licensed for on-premise alcohol sales.  All of the establishments serving alcohol in the very unique Caroline Street-Putnam Street-Maple Avenue area are within 500 feet of at least three other similar businesses.  They are all in violation of the 500 Foot Law.

The obvious rationale for the 500 Foot Law is that it becomes much more difficult to oversee and control the licensed businesses if there is an over- concentration of such establishments.  Caroline Street has become the prime example in New York State for what can go wrong when there are too many bars with too many intoxicated patrons being served too late in a very focused zone.

In New York State, the standards for new licenses to serve alcohol are more stringent if those businesses violate the 500 Foot Law.  The SLA will only issue these licenses if it is determined that it is in the public interest to do so.  The considerations include:

  • The number, classes and character of other premises not only in the area of the proposed establishment but also in the particular municipality.
  • The impact on the existing noise level.
  • The history of ABC violations and reported criminal activity at the location.
  • Any other factor specified by law or regulation that would be relevant to deciding whether public interest would be served by granting the application.

The 500 Foot Law requires that the SLA consult with the municipality and conduct a hearing to gather facts to determine whether public interest would be served by issuing the license.  In situations where there is opposition to an application, applicants may come to an agreement on stipulations concerning the operation of the establishment such as closing hours, live entertainment, etc.

Saratoga Springs has a major role in helping to determine whether an applicant in violation of the 500 Foot Law can get a license to serve alcohol and what conditions might be imposed on that applicant.  Protecting the reputation of the City, the level of peace and tranquility afforded neighboring residents and businesses, and public safety would all be important factors for the SLA to consider.

As opposed to new applications, renewals of licenses to serve alcohol for applicants in violation of the 500 Foot Law do not automatically meet the same level of scrutiny or process.  However, Commissioner Montagnino’s suggestion that letters be submitted to the SLA requesting an earlier closing hour would have an impact on the regulators.  Any history of problems related to establishments due for renewal would be pertinent, including violations of local laws as well as the Alcohol Beverage Control Laws.  The SLA does have the authority to impose earlier closing hours and other restrictions on renewals in response to the City’s public safety concerns if they can be substantiated.

I have met with the SLA a number of times.  They are acutely aware of the Caroline Street problems and they were an important resource for me when I was Commissioner of Public Safety.  I am sure that they will continue to cooperate with Commissioner Montagnino in trying to solve a situation that has only gotten worse.

Yet Another Marathon City Council Meeting and Kim’s and Montagnino’s Conflicts Continue

How Not To Run A Meeting

The most recent Saratoga Springs City Council meeting again lasted almost five hours, beginning at 6:45PM and ending just before midnight. It is yet another example of Mayor Kim’s inability to efficiently carry out city business. I will be writing more about the December 20,2022, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, but Foothills Business Daily (FBD) has published a brief and informative article on the meeting.

Here is the link: https://foothillsbusinessdaily.com/divided-city-council-passes-resolution-to-push-bars-closed-a/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

DA Heggen Lets Temporary Restraining Order Expire but Moves for Other Legal Action Against Montagnino and Kim

Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen has moved not to continue the temporary restraining order granted by Supreme Court Justice Diane Freestone in the wake of Mayor Kim’s and Commissioner Montagnino’s press conference after the November 20 shoot out on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. This is an excellent piece by FBD on Heggen’s most recent actions in the controversy.

Link: https://foothillsbusinessdaily.com/springs-gag-order-is-lifted-another-suit-filed/

Please Support Foothills Business Daily

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Kim and Montagnino Throw Their Fellow Democratic Colleagues and the City Under The Bus

At yet another special Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, this one held on Friday afternoon, December 16, the law firm of E. Stewart Jones, Hackler, Murphy was hired to appeal the restraining order against the city growing out of the press conference Mayor Ron Kim, and Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino held regarding the shoot out on Broadway the weekend before Thanksgiving. The law firm’s partners bill at $400.00 an hour.

This occurred at a special meeting that was improperly noticed, where Kim refused to let Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub attend via zoom as he himself had done only two weeks before, and where it was revealed that Montagnino, City Attorney Tony Izzo and Deputy Mayor Angela Rella had not yet met with Saratoga County DA Heggen as they had been directed to do by the Council. That meeting had been intended to try to resolve the differences over the restraining order and avoid going to court.

Montagnino and Kim Show Contempt For Their Colleagues on the Council

DA Heggen reached out to the Council, suggesting they meet to discuss the issues surrounding the restraining order. At their December 6, 2022, meeting, the Council directed Montagnino, City Attorney Anthony Izzo, and Deputy Mayor Angela Rella to meet with Heggen to try to find a way to resolve the TRO controversy. Kim told his colleagues he would write to DA Heggen to arrange the meeting.

That was at the December 6, 2022, Council meeting. The restraining order was scheduled to be reviewed by the court on December 22. So this allowed for sixteen calendar days before the hearing on the TRO for the city to meet with the DA to try to resolve their differences.

As it turns out, Kim never contacted Heggen, nor did anyone else from city hall.

Kim scheduled a special meeting for Friday, December 16. The legal notice for the meeting was not published until the day of the meeting, giving the public little, if any, notice.

At the last minute, Kim added a resolution to the agenda that would authorize him to hire outside attorneys for “legal services related to response to the TRO.”

In a Rush To Litigate, Kim and Montagnino Fail To Follow Proper Purchasing Requirements

On November 29, 2022, Kim sent out a Request For Quotes (RFQ) to area law firms to seek quotes for legal services to respond to the TRO. The deadline for responses was 5:00 PM, December 1, 2022.

A Request For Quotes required that the city receive a minimum of three proposals to make an award, and it appears that no firms responded by the deadline.

Undeterred, Kim and Montagnino apparently reached out to the law firm E Stewart Jones, Hacker, Murphy. That law firm then submitted a response on December 13, 2022, twelve days after the deadline. This was the proposal Kim and Montagnino pressed the Council to accept on December 16.

Did Montagnino and Kim Ever Intend To Carry Out The Wishes of the Council?

It was apparent that Kim and Montagnino never took seriously the Council’s directive to meet with the DA to try to avoid litigation. At the December 16 meeting, Montagnino informed his colleagues that he had already been in discussions with the E Stewart Jones law firm on the case, even though the other Council members were not even aware that the law firm had been contacted after the December 1 deadline for the response to the RFQ. Montagnino announced to his colleagues that the law firm was awaiting his text advising the law firm that the Council had approved the contract so that the firm could work on the case over the weekend (at who knows what cost).

At one point, Commissioners Moran and Sanghvi asked what had happened with the meeting with Heggen. Kim offered a rambling response. Unfortunately, neither Accounts Commissioner Moran nor Finance Commissioner Sanghvi effectively pressed for a clear answer. Kim runs a chaotic meeting that makes securing answers to unfriendly questions challenging.

Using their usual legal gibberish about the need for representation, Montagnino and Kim successfully pressured Sanghvi and Moran to join them in voting to authorize the contract with the law firm.

Moran admitted later that he had failed to scrutinize the contract, which contained a vague clause that, in effect, gave the Mayor broad authority to use the law firm even beyond the TRO case. The agreement was for a full year and allowed “for other services as assigned.”

Regrettably, Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub, the most reasonable and articulate voice on the Council, was not there due to a cynical maneuver by Kim.

Kim Blocks Golub from Joining City Council Meeting

The December 16, 2022, City Council meeting took place on a day when a snow emergency had been declared, and schools had been closed, necessitating that Commissioner Golub remain home with his kids.

Golub contacted the city about arranging for him to participate in the meeting via Zoom as many Council members had done over the past year. Much to his surprise, he was advised that it would be illegal for him to participate. The Mayor had received a legal opinion from City Attorney Tony Izzo that the law required the city to provide the public with notice before the meeting indicating that a Council member would be zooming in.

Bear in mind that on December 2, 2022 (just fourteen days earlier), the Mayor used Zoom to participate in a Council meeting. There was no prior notice to the public advising them that he would be video conferencing as required according to Izzo’s opinion. At the time, Kim assured the public that his participation was legal and appropriate. So two weeks later, somehow, Tony Izzo provides Mayor Kim with a legal opinion that he can use to block Golub from doing the very same thing.

Here is Mayor Kim on December 2:

The reality is that Golub had been instrumental in blocking a previous resolution by Montagnino condemning DA Heggen and, more importantly, had played a key role in convincing the Council to meet with the DA to discuss their differences. Kim and Montagnino did not want Golub present as it risked disrupting their plans to do what they had wanted to do all along which was to litigate.

I contacted the New York State Committee on Open Government for an opinion on both Kim’s and Golub’s right to have Zoomed.

The email correspondence with the Committee on Open Government (COOG) is included at the end of this post. They confirmed Izzo’s opinion that prior notice to the public is required for any council member to vote via Zoom.

Apparently, the way other municipalities deal with the problem of how to deal with unexpected and last-minute Zooming is to include in all notices for meetings that there will be “video conferencing” whether or not there actually will be video conferencing. Strange, but that is the law.

By affirming Izzo’s opinion, it also established that Kim’s December 6, 2022 Zoom violated the Open Meetings Law.

A Little Late…

Apparently, Kim, Montagnino, and Izzo learned that criticism was on its way for Kim’s failure to write to DA Heggen requesting a meeting as the Council directed. So today (December 19, 2022), City Attorney Izzo sent a letter to Heggen asking to set up the meeting. I cannot keep from asking, “Is this crazy?” Kim had agreed to send the letter on December 6. So now, sixteen days later, with the TRO hearing only three days away and the city spending money on legal fees, the letter is finally sent.

A Self-Inflicted Fiasco

This whole mess was unnecessary. Montagnino and Kim circumvented their colleagues on the Council and disregarded established city policy when they held their press conference about the shootout on Broadway. They have resisted every effort to address the ensuing restraining order without resorting to litigation. They may prevail in a court challenge of the restraining order, but this will be at great and unnecessary expense to the city. They have put their own egos before the city’s interests.

According to the city’s police manual, all contacts with the media regarding ongoing investigations must go through the police chief. This had served the city well. Had Montagnino and Kim followed this policy, the city would not be in the position it is in today.

Perhaps if they agreed to follow this policy in all investigations in the future, it would address the DA’s concerns.

Unfortunately, the bottomless appetite of Montagnino and Kim for media exposure blinds them from doing what is good for the city.

Grim!

This level of deceit and manipulation by city leaders is hard to watch. I feel badly for the city’s employees who have to endure the same kind of behavior directed at them.

I have to admit covering local Saratoga Springs politics is beginning to take its toll on your blogger. I usually maintain a certain amused distance to maintain my sanity in observing and writing about our Council. Regrettably, watching the toxic carrying on of these people and the damage they are doing to our city and enduring listening to the self-serving and grandiose speeches is, to say the least, wearing me down a bit.

————————————————

The Opinion From The Committee On Open Government

Assuming that a public body held a public hearing and adopted a resolution and procedures, Section 103-a permits members to attend and participate in a meeting through purely remote means under very limited circumstances. Relevant to your first question emailed on December 17, Section 103-a(f) states that for any meeting where a member will be attending remotely due to extraordinary circumstances, “the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, where the public can view and/or participate in such meeting, where required documents and records will be posted or available, and identify the physical location for the meeting where the public can attend.” Notice of meetings that are scheduled at least one week in advance must be posted 72 hours before the meeting. §104(1). Therefore, if the notice did not inform the public that videoconferencing would be used and did not include a link for the public to access the meeting in that same way, the advice provided by the attorney was, in my opinion, consistent with the requirements of the OML.

Remote attendance is permissible under Section 103-a only when a member experiences an extraordinary circumstance. While the body has some discretion in defining what qualifies as an extraordinary circumstance, it appears that the Saratoga City Council defines “extraordinary circumstances” to include “disability, illness, caregiving responsibilities, non-routine events or responsibilities of family or personal business, or any other significant or unexpected factor or event which precludes the Member’s physical attendance at such meeting.” In my opinion, a family wedding would fit within this definition. 

While the OML does not require a public body to publish a legal notice informing the public of open meetings, it must produce a public notice (i) setting forth the time, physical location and remote access link (if a member attends remotely), and (ii) that notice must be sent to the news media, (iii) “conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations,” and (iv) posted to the webpage, if the body has the ability to do so. § 104. Since I am unable to locate a copy of the meeting notice, I cannot offer an opinion regarding whether the notice seems consistent with these requirements.

If you believe that the City Council has not complied with the requirements of the OML, you have the right to initiate a Civil Procedure Law and Rules, Article 78 proceeding in state Supreme Court.  

Christen L. Smith

Senior Attorney

Pronouns: she/her/hers

New York State Committee on Open Government

One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12231

(518) 474-2518 

http://www.opengovernment.ny.gov

Saratoga Springs Democratic Party’s Disinformation Campaign and Attack on Their Own Elected Commissioners

Pat Tuz, the chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, made the unusual move at the December 6, 2022, City Council meeting of officially endorsing an amendment to the city code in spite of the fact that three of the Democrats on the Council opposed and defeated the amendment. In effect, she and her executive committee lined up with the sponsors of the bill, Democrats Mayor Kim and Commissioner Montagnino, openly opposing Democratic Commissioners Golub, Sanghvi, and Moran who voted against the proposal.

For the chair of a political party to choose sides against elected officials of their own party on a fractious issue, if not unheard of, is at least very unusual.

Just as odd was an email Tuz sent out to the members of the city Democratic Committee urging them to attend the December 6 meeting and speak in support of a resolution that was not on the agenda and, in effect, did not exist.

Her ghost resolution was purportedly to “adopt a 2:00AM closing time for bars and restaurants in the City of Saratoga Springs.” As has been thoroughly discussed at the Council table and in the media, the city cannot set the closing times of its bars. No such resolution was on the City Council agenda, and there was no public hearing on adopting a 2am closing time. This is a link to the December 6 City Council agenda, and here is the list of public hearings scheduled for that evening.

What was on the agenda that night was a deeply flawed and likely illegal amendment to Chapter 136 of the city code proposed by Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino and supported by Mayor Ron Kim. The amendment would have given the city the power to revoke a bar’s license if any of a series of events took place after 2am. For instance, bizarrely, a bar could lose its license under this proposal if someone had been in their establishment and left after 2AM and afterward committed a criminal offense somewhere somehow, even though the bar had done nothing that contributed to the offense.

Let’s be clear that the three Democrats who voted against Montagnino’s proposal were entirely in support of a 2:00am bar closing. Their opposition to the code amendment was based on their belief that it was unworkable and would only lead to needless litigation.

An earlier post explored Montagnino’s “creative” resolution in detail. Democrat Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub, who is an attorney, captured the problems with this proposal when at the December 6 meeting, he said:

“I think it’s poorly written, I think it’s open to so many different interpretations that I’m not even sure it could be, or is legal. I think it contradicts what our own city attorney suggested as language, which has, once again, been ignored. And I think it contradicts the need to spend more time and understand what the real problems are and what the solutions can be, including, potentially, closing the bars at 2 a.m.”

Jason Golub December 6, 2022, Council Meeting

Nevertheless, in the days leading up to the Council meeting where Montagnino’s proposal would be voted on, Democratic Chair Pat Tuz sent out the following emails to Democratic Committee members, and probably others, misrepresenting what was going to be voted on and what the public hearing was about:

The Executive Committee of the  Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee supports the resolution being proposed at the Tuesday, December 6 City Council meeting to adopt a 2:00 a.m. closing time for bars and restaurants in the City of Saratoga Springs. [JK:Emphasis added] This is important for the safety and security of our residents, and our guests.  In light of serious recent events, and a history of over 20 years of problems, and the fact that  previous attempts have failed,  we feel the time is right for the City Council to do everything in its power to change the closing time to 2:00am and hope that every city council member will approve this measure to take action now.” 

Pat Tuz email December 5, 2022

and

There will be a public hearing tomorrow evening at 6:40 [JK: My emphasis]. Please attend in person and share your thoughts.  Or just say “I support a 2am closing.”  The meeting will be in the Music Room on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  

If you cannot attend, please send an email with your thoughts and support to the City Council.  Emails are as follows:

[JK: What followed was a list of the five city council members and their email addresses.]

Pat Tuz Email December 5, 2022

So why would Pat Tuzv mischaracterize the issue before the Council as “a resolution to adopt a 2am closing time”? And why does she urge Dems to contact City Council members to urge them to support a 2am closing when all five Council members had already taken this position? They had, in fact, recently voted unanimously to ask the County to change the time.

And why did the city Democratic Facebook page similarly misrepresent what was going to be considered at the upcoming Council meeting, falsely claiming that there would be a hearing on “whether to shift the bar-closing time from 4:00 am to 2:am”?

A Classic Example Of Bait And Switch

It begs credibility that Tuz was unaware that there was no public hearing or vote on the City Council agenda to adopt an earlier closing time for the bars. Remember, the statement came not just from her but also from the five other members of the Democratic Committee’s executive committee. How could all of these people make such a significant error? Were they just not paying attention?

I don’t think so. I suspect that Tuz and her colleagues on the city’s Democratic Executive Committee knew that even lay people with no legal background could see the problems with Montagnino’s resolution that claimed the city could rescind bar licenses under the most dubious circumstances. Rather than try to mobilize people to support a confusing and probably illegal proposal, it was easier to rally their base around a simple call for a 2AM closing even though they knew this was not the proposal before the Council. So I think the email Tuz sent out was not a mistake but a deliberate strategy.

The Democrats’ narrative was soon picked up by the media.

Consider this cover of Saratoga Today.

The television coverage suffered from similar disinformation. WNYT referred to the Montagnino/Kim proposal as a “proposal to change the closing time for bars…”

Throwing Three Democratic Commissioners Under The Bus

Chairperson Tuz had to know that Commissioners Jason Golub, Minita Sanghvi, and Dillon Moran, all Democrats, wholeheartedly supported closing the bars at 2:00am but were opposed to the Montagnino/Kim resolution for very legitimate reasons. This did not restrain Tuz and her executive committee.

Interestingly, this was done by the Democrats’ executive committee, which is just the officers, not the full committee, where two of the three opponents to Montagnino’s proposal are members.

The consequence of characterizing the proposal as a vote on a 2am closing, not as a vote on a specific flawed proposal to pressure bars to close, was for people to conclude falsely that Golub, Sanghvi, and Moran, by voting against this measure, opposed closing the city’s bars early.

That Tuz and her executive committee would promote a false narrative at the expense of the three Commissioners is even stranger in light of the fact that Tuz and her executive committee have remained silent regarding our Supervisors Gaston(D) and Veitch(R), who really are opposed to closing the bars earlier.

So why would Tuz and her committee promote such a falsehood?

And why wouldn’t she and the executive committee instead work to find some common ground between the five Democrats in approaching the bar issue rather than involve themselves in taking sides in a contentious and divisive split among the elected Democratic officials?

The answer seems to be that there is a factional split among the Democrats and that Tuz and the executive committee have signed on to the Kim/Montagnino team.

The Democratic Divide Continues

Further evidence of this split among the Democrats was on display in comments Mayor Kim made recently to the Times Union and in an email from Ron Kim that Tuz endorsed and circulated.

Both falsely characterized the three Council members who voted against the Kim/Montagnino proposal as opposed to closing bars at 2 AM.

In the TU article, Kim discussed the defeat of Montagnino’s code amendment, saying:

“I’m disappointed. The chief of police, on the record, stated that most of the violence on Caroline Street is happening after 2am. Three of the council members turned a blind eye to that…”

Kim’s email that Tuz circulated contained the following:

Unfortunately, my [Kim’s] effort with Commissioner of Public Safety Jim Montagnino to restrict operations on Caroline Street past 2 am failed to pass on a 2:3 vote, despite the SSPD Chief of Police stating that most of the reported violent activity on Caroline Street occurs after 2 am.

Commissioners Minita Sanghvi (minita.sanghvi@saratoga-springs.org), Jason Golub (jason.golub@saratoga-springs.org), and Dillon Moran (dillon.moran@saratoga-springs.org) all voted against the proposed ordinance. Please feel free to contact them with any comments or concerns you may have about their vote.

Kim email

Needless to say, Commissioners Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub have unfortunately received numerous emails falsely accusing them of opposing a 2AM closing.

It remains to be seen how bitter and divisive this apparent factionalism among the Democrats will continue to be.


The Emails

From: Pat Tuz <Pat.Tuz@saratogadems.org>
Date: December 5, 2022 at 3:05:47 PM EST
Subject: Please support City Council’s action for 2:00am bar closing…



Dear Committee Members:

 The Executive Committee is asking all members of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee to join us in recommending this course of action to all members of the City Council.

The Executive Committee of the  Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee supports the resolution being proposed at the Tuesday, December 6 City Council meeting to adopt a 2:00 a.m. closing time for bars and restaurants in the City of Saratoga Springs. This is important for the safety and security of our residents, and our guests.  In light of serious recent events, and a history of over 20 years of problems, and the fact that  previous attempts have failed,  we feel the time is right for the City Council to do everything in its power to change the closing time to 2:00am and hope that every city council member will approve this measure to take action now. 

 There will be a public hearing tomorrow evening at 6:40. Please attend in person and share your thoughts.  Or just say “I support a 2am closing.”  The meeting will be in the Music Room on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  

If you cannot attend, please send an email with your thoughts and support to the City Council.  Emails are as follows:

Mayor Ron Kim:  ron.kim@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Public Safety Jim Montagnino:   james.montagnino@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Finance Minita Sanghvi:  minita.sanghvi@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran:   dillon.moran@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Public Works Jason Golub:    jason.golub@saratoga-springs.org

Here are a few recent article with some background.  

The Gazette:   https://dailygazette.com/2022/11/28/saratoga-springs-city-council-sets-public-hearings-to-address-downtown-violence-earlier-bar-closing-times/

The Gazette:  https://dailygazette.com/2022/12/03/closing-time-amid-proposal-for-earlier-closings-many-saratoga-springs-b

ars-already-shut-down-around-2-a-m/

Thanks for your interest!  See you tomorrow night.

Pat Tuz

SSDC Chairperson

From: Pat Tuz
Date: December 8, 2022 at 2:47:43 PM EST
Subject: Fwd: Closing Bars at 2 am

A hearty thank you for your help in the form of your presence and your emails at this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting.  Thanks to all who participated in all ways in the discussion on Caroline Street.  The letter below is from Mayor Ron Kim’s office thanking everyone.  

With the proliferation of guns in general and a SC decision that affected New York’s formerly very strict concealed carry law, our City Council understands the urgency of this issue.  

The decision was made to form a committee, and part of that is to do a “security audit”.  Although we would have liked to have seen measures taken now, this audit will yield the need for the 136  amendment.  

In the meantime, I suggest we send emails to  the County Board of Supervisors requesting a 2:00am closing time for bars and restaurants in Saratoga Springs.  You can click on this link and use the forms provided for each Supervisor.  

And, all you have to say is the following:   

Due to the ongoing violence in Saratoga Springs, and as it’s a County decision to determine closing times for all bars and restaurants, I am requesting that the closing time for all bars and restaurants be moved to 2:00am.  There is no reason for them to stay open so late as too often leads to violence as was demonstrated by the November 20th incident on Broadway.  

Thanks again for everyone’s help!  

Pat Tuz

SSDC Chairperson

From: ron.kim@saratoga-springs.org

Subject: Closing Bars at 2 am

Date: December 8, 2022 at 9:06:22 AM EST

To: Jen Dunn <jen.dunn@saratoga-springs.org>

Cc: Ron Kim <ron.kim@saratoga-springs.org>, James Montagnino <james.montagnino@saratoga-springs.org>, angela rella <angela.rella@saratoga-springs.org> Good morning,

I want to thank you again for expressing your support for closing bars in Saratoga at 2 am.  

Unfortunately, my effort with Commissioner of Public Safety Jim Montagnino to restrict operations on Caroline Street past 2 am failed to pass on a 2:3 vote, despite the SSPD Chief of Police stating that most of the reported violent activity on Caroline Street occurs after 2 am.

Commissioners Minita Sanghvi (minita.sanghvi@saratoga-springs.org), Jason Golub (jason.golub@saratoga-springs.org), and Dillon Moran (dillon.moran@saratoga-springs.org) all voted against the proposed ordinance. Please feel free to contact them with any comments or concerns you may have about their vote.

I will continue working toward solutions that ensure the safety of residents and visitors to Saratoga Springs, law enforcement personnel, and other first responders and business owners and employees who work at late night establishments in our City.  This is a matter of vital importance to me.

Sincerely,

Ron Kim

Jen Dunn
Executive Assistant to the Mayor’s Office
City of Saratoga Springs
474 Broadway, Suite 11
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
518-587-3550 Ext: 2520

Saratoga Springs’ Two County Supervisors Are a Major Impediment to Changing Bar Closing Times

The members of the current Saratoga Springs City Council, like past Councils, feel strongly that closing the bars in Saratoga at 2AM would help to control the increasing number of problems occurring on Caroline Street late at night. Saratoga Springs’ two County Supervisors, Matt Veitch (R) and Tara Gaston (D), are major impediments to achieving this goal, however.

As many readers know, Saratoga Springs cannot set its own bar and restaurant closing times. According to state law, closing times must be uniform county wide, and Saratoga County has currently set the closing time at 4 AM. Bars and restaurants may close earlier if they so choose and many do, but mandating an earlier closing time requires the cooperation of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Saratoga City Councils, including this one, have repeatedly asked the Board of Supervisors to take action to institute earlier closing times without success, and they will never have success as long as the two Supervisors who represent the city oppose this move. Both Supervisor Veitch and Gaston made clear their opposition to changing the closing time at the December 6, 2022, City Council meeting.

Here are the Supervisors speaking at that meeting:

It was particularly disheartening that after these statements, the members of the Council offered so little pushback.

Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino claimed he had a letter from Police Chief Shane Crooks strongly supporting bar closings, but he failed to press this point with the Supervisors. I asked Montagnino for a copy of the letter and for relevant statistics that support the letter. He has regrettably not yet responded. Hopefully, he has shared this information with Supervisor Gaston.

Supervisor Gaston’s Unfortunate Attack

Having made clear her opposition to changing the bar closing times, Supervisor Gaston, made an odd attempt to somehow blame the previous Council for not persuading the Board of Supervisors to take action. She claimed the previous Council had intemperately attacked the Board of Supervisors for not changing the closing hours. She asserted that the previous administration basically told the County Board of Supervisors, “you suck”(her words). I have reviewed the video from the August 3, 2021, Council meeting at which the previous Council passed a resolution unanimously requesting the County to change the bar closing time. There was little discussion and nothing criticizing the County. I have written to Supervisor Gaston asking for some kind of documentation for her harsh accusations.

Having Their Cake And Eating it Too

So our two Supervisors have made it clear that they do not believe that there is any point in making the closing hours earlier. They refuse to advocate for the County to change the hours, yet they credited themselves for a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors to amend state law to allow local municipalities to set their own bar closing times.

I would call that contradictory. They do not support the County allowing Saratoga to change the hours, but they do support the state allowing the change? So how to explain this? Gaston and Veitch, along with their colleagues on the County Board of Supervisors, know what a herculean task it will be to pass this kind of legislation affecting every county in the state. This is a way for them to confuse the voters into thinking they somehow support early closings (which they don’t!) while actually undermining the effort.

The Way Forward

Solving the problems on Caroline Street will be challenging, and in the end, there is no cure all. I join those, however, who feel that closing bars earlier would provide some relief. Commissioner Montagnino’s proposal to try to move bar owners to close earlier by threatening to revoke their licenses was ill-conceived and most likely illegal. Commissioners Golub, Sanghvi, and Moran are to be commended for voting this down and searching for other ways to address the problems the city is facing.

I myself feel that it is possible to convince the County to take action to change the bar closing times. Achieving this would take some careful and thoughtful work meetings, probably first individually with key Supervisors to hear and address their concerns. Getting an understanding of what pressures Supervisors are experiencing in the communities they represent is important. For instance, how many bars currently stay open til 4AM in, say, Halfmoon? My understanding is that Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo is sympathetic to the concerns of our Police Chief. Enlisting law enforcement to voice their opinions with the Supervisors might be effective. All this, however, would require a patient and thoughtful approach, and I’m not sure who on this current Council could fill this role, with the exception of Jason Golub. Unfortunately, certainly not Mayor Ron Kim or Commissioner Montagnino, who have spent useless time and energy on a poorly conceived proposal that fortunately went nowhere. And yes, to move the County will require that our two Supervisors get on board.

Commissioner Montagnino’s Bar Closing Folly

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino’s terribly flawed proposal to pressure bars and restaurants to close at 2AM was fortunately defeated at the December 6, 2022, City Council meeting by a 3-2 vote.

Here is a link to Montagnino’s complete proposal to amend Chapter 136-37 of the City Code:

file:///C:/Users/kaufm/Downloads/Chapter_136_Proposed_Amendment_(Dec_2__2022)%20(2).pdf

The amendment contains four conditions that, should any of them occur after 2 AM, would subject a bar or restaurant to having their business license rescinded.

For instance, the first condition states that a permit could be revoked by the City Council if:

“a patron or guest of the establishment in question left the establishment after 2:00 am and, within one hour of leaving the establishment, committed a criminal offense. Prima facie evidence of the commission of a criminal offense shall include, but not be limited to, an arrest or issuance of an appearance ticket upon probable cause;”

So if a patron came into a bar and drank a glass of Saratoga Water and, upon leaving, was stopped for running a stop sign, the bar owner could face the revocation of his/her business license. This is even though the bar management did nothing that contributed to the driving violation.

I have spoken to three well-respected attorneys, all of whom dismissed the amendment as poorly crafted and sure to be challenged in court. This was a major reason Commissioners Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub voted against Montagnino’s proposal.

Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub articulated this and other concerns:

[Due to the fact that Commissioner Golub speaks softly, people using pcs will probably have to resort to earphones]

Here is the transcript of what Commissioner Golub had to say:

“I think it’s poorly written, I think it’s open to so many different interpretations that I’m not even sure it could be, or is legal. I think it contradicts what our own city attorney suggested as language, which has, once again, been ignored. And I think it contradicts the need to spend more time and understand what the real problems are and what the solutions can be, including, potentially, closing the bars at 2 a.m.”

Commissioner Jason Golub

I have a darker analysis of this resolution. As poor a lawyer as Montagnino may be, he must know that his resolution would not survive a court appeal. The real purpose of this resolution, besides getting him on television, was, I believe, to intimidate and threaten the bar owners. If it had passed, the amendment would have been a threat to the bars even if it didn’t eventually survive court challenges. While the city, I believe, would not prevail in a lawsuit, the cost for a business to defend itself in court and challenge the amendment, along with the loss of revenue while it was closed, could easily bankrupt a small business. This proposal was legally flawed and would have severely damaged the possibility of creating a situation where the city and the business owners could work cooperatively together to address these issues.

Mayor Kim: We Have To Do Something (Even If It’s Ill Conceived)

Mayor Kim was Montagnino’s sole supporter. In his remarks at the meeting, he never addresses Commissioner Golub’s concerns about the resolution. Instead, he asserts that if the city does not pass Montagnino’s amendment, it will open the city to lawsuits for inaction.

After the vote, Kim dramatically called for the record to show that he and Montagnino moved and seconded the resolution and that Golub, Sanghvi, and Moran voted against it. I cannot restrain myself from being snarky. Mayor Kim, the minutes of the City Council always record who voted one way or the other. Your coda was not required.

The City Democratic Committee Weighs In

In one of the odder twists to the evening, Pat Tuz, the chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, spoke during the comment period. As an indication of the condition of that committee, she announced the party’s executive committee had voted to endorse Montagnino’s proposal and gave it a ringing endorsement only to see three of the committee’s endorsed candidates vote it down.

Another Marathon City Council Meeting: Bar Closing Hours, Deputy Salaries and More

The Tuesday, December 6th Saratoga Springs City Council meeting was notable for its length –about five hours–but also for the number of contentious items on the agenda. I will be writing more extensively about the events at this meeting once I can review the video. For now, I will rely on my less-than-perfect memory to post this synopsis of some of the main items that were acted on. These include (not necessarily in the order they were dealt with by the Council):

*the proposal to pressure the bars to close at 2 AM

*the proposal to increase wages and benefits for the Deputies

*the DA Heggen issue

*the Liberty Affordable housing proposal

Public Safety Proposal to “Amend City Code Chapter 136-37 Regarding Revocation And Suspension of Permits”

Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino had an item on his agenda designed to pressure the bars in town to close by 2 am by threatening to revoke the permit of any eating or drinking establishment if, for example, “a patron or guest of the establishment in question left the establishment after 2:00AM and, within one hour of leaving the establishment, committed a criminal offense.”

The public hearing on this item was long and contentious. Many persons associated with the bars around Caroline Street turned up and spoke against closing the bars at 2:00 AM in general, and this proposed ordinance change in particular. While some members of the public spoke in favor of a 2 AM closing, none addressed the problematic nature of this particular ordinance change.

The resolution failed on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Kim and Montagnino voting in favor and Commissioners Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub voting against the motion to adopt the proposed regulations.

Putting aside the issue of a 2:00 AM closing, to say that the proposal was flawed is a gross understatement. I will be writing about this in a coming post.

Deputy Salary and Benefits Proposal

There was a heated exchange over the proposal submitted by Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran to increase the salary and benefits of the Deputies. {see the previous post for details} The proposal was tabled for two weeks. There appeared to be a consensus that Public Works Deputy Joe O’Neil’s situation was unique and deserved special consideration. In his role, he is on call basically 24/7. He is called out at night for infrastructure emergencies, for instance. O’Neil has also held his position for a number of years as opposed to the other Deputies who have been employed for a year or less. Commissioner Sanghvi offered to work on revising the proposal to try to find a consensus on how to handle the O’Neil issue.

The DA Issue

Earlier, before the meeting on Tuesday, county District Attorney Karen Heggen responded to a letter sent by City Attorney Tony Izzo at the direction of the Council. The Council had decided they would take the DA up on an offer she had made to meet, but they had attached a demand that first Heggen ask Judge Freestone to drop the restraining order against them. In her reply, Heggen declined to apply to the court to drop the restraining order. She did, however, offer to modify the order and invited representatives of the Council to meet with her in her offices to discuss the issues.

The Council decided that the Mayor should not go to the meeting but instead that Deputy Mayor Angela Rella, along with Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino and City Attorney Tony Izzo, would meet with Heggen. There was some discussion about having the city’s Chief of Police attend, but it was not clear to me how that was resolved, if at all.

Montagnino Ignores His Own Department’s Policy Manual

As an interesting aside, it came to light during the public comment period that the Saratoga Springs Police Department Policy Manual contains the following:

It is the policy of the Saratoga Springs Police Department to protect the privacy rights of individuals, while releasing non-confidential information to the media regarding topics of public concern.  Information that has the potential to negatively affect investigations will not be released.”

324.2 Policy

and

“The ultimate authority and responsibility for the release of information to the media shall remain with the Chief of Police.”

324.3 Responsibilities

Obviously, had Mayor Kim and Commissioner Montagnino followed the policy manual of their own police department, the debacle the city is dealing with now could have been avoided.

Given the manual, it is clear that the Chief of Police should attend the meeting with Heggen.

As Commissioner Montagnino never responds to my emails, I cannot verify what the plan is.

The Liberty Affordable Housing Issue

The Accounts agenda included two items related to the Liberty Affordable Housing proposal for the parcel at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Jefferson Street.

The items were:

  1. Discussion and Vote SEQRA Liberty Affordable Housing
  2. Discussion and Vote Council Approval of Zoning Map and Comprehensive Map Amendments for Liberty Affordable Housing

Commissioner Dillon Moran explained that these two items would not actually be voted on at the meeting. He had placed them on his agenda to provide the public with a link to the documents related to Liberty’s proposal, something that he said couldn’t be done otherwise because of some kind of limit to the city’s IT system.