The group had presented a petition to the city back in 2010 asking for the chance to allow voters to choose whether the city would remain in its current commission format or change to a council-manager form. The change would result in the hiring of a professionally-trained city manager, who would be put in charge of the city’s day-to-day operations.
The group’s petition was initially rejected back in 2010 when among other issues, it was indicated that a fiscal note was not included and that a number of signatures were alleged to be unusable. Saratoga Citizen sued the city following the rejection, and won, which led the city to immediately appeal the decision. The appellate court upheld the decision in favor of Saratoga Citizen earlier this month.
Mayor Johnson expressed that he wasn’t sure if the petition could still be implemented since the documents were drafted back in 2010, and the dates outlined in the Saratoga Citizen proposal have all passed.
“The timeline for this has come and gone, and we have to address that as a city,” said Johnson.
Johnson will seek a legal opinion from the New York Conference of Mayors, an organization that’s maintained support for the commission throughout its legal battle against the petitions.
Saratoga Springs Housing Authority
In other city council news, it was a busy night for Commissioner John Franck, as he also suggested that a corrective action be initiated regarding the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority (SSHA), which would contain the outlined steps required to once again be in accordance with city law. The SSHA’s employees are required to have their salaries approved by the city council but stopped submitting for approval back in 2000.
This led to the discovery that the organization’s executive director Ed Spychalski’s salary had ballooned to over $150,000 annually, or double what he made when he took the job in 2007. A legal opinion sought by the city revealed there was little recourse should the SSHA fail to comply with the city’s requests. This was challenged recently as a letter sent by the Department of U.S. Housing and Development said that the city has “primary oversight responsibility” over the SSHA.
Commissioner Franck expressed his confidence that there was no way the council would have approved such a dramatic increase in salary, and proposed the SSHA bring their current salaries to the council for approval. Franck has also stated he would submit a request under the Freedom of Information act, asking for more information about the Housing Authority, as well as addressing his concerns with a nonprofit created by the SSHA called the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group. Spychalski and Gerald Hawthorne have since left the affiliate group.
Commissioner orders another round of last call hearings
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen has scheduled another public hearing regarding the proposed change to the city’s last call hour for 6:15 p.m. May 1, prior to their city council meeting. This is the second chance in a less than a month residents of Saratoga Springs will be allowed the chance to voice their opinions about whether bars and night clubs should be allowed to serve alcohol until the current time of 4 a.m. or have it rolled back to 3 a.m. or possibly earlier. Commissioner Franck had suggested Mathiesen wait until the State Liquor Authority would require the change to be countywide, or would only apply to the city. Franck attempted a similar measure in 2010, but was unsuccessful.