Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim went into his first term in office by telling the press he would not consider keeping Vince DeLeonardis on as City Attorney because he gives bad advice. Turns out DeLeonardis’ advice was absolutely correct as proven by an item on the Mayor’s agenda for this Tuesday’s (4/19/22) City Council meeting.
Following his election as Mayor last November, Ron Kim announced his plan to appoint Ms. Elizabeth Fletcher-Fairbanks of Greenfield as the City Attorney. The City Attorney is considered, under New York State municipal law, to be a “public officer.” As such the person holding the position is required to be a resident of the municipality where they will serve. When it was pointed out to him by then-City Attorney De Leonardis that Ms. Fletcher-Fairbanks was ineligible to serve as the City Attorney due to this stipulation, Kim dismissed this advice. He claimed that the City Attorney was not a public officer. While the appointment of Ms. Fletcher-Fairbanks was withdrawn, he continued to obstinately refuse to acknowledge that the City Attorney position is a public officer even in the face of mounting evidence that de Leonardis was correct.
In a particularly troubling move, Kim publicly ridiculed DeLeonardis for having advised him of the residency requirement in an interview in the Daily Gazette.
Fletcher-Fairbanks, the lawyer Kim is considering, does not live in the city. She ran unsuccessfully for Greenfield Town Justice in 2017.
Kim said DeLeonardis advised him that the city attorney had to live in Saratoga Springs, to which Kim obviously disagrees.
“We did the research,” Kim said, including confirmation from the New York Conference of Mayors.
“We’re not talking about district attorneys,” Kim said. “We’re not talking about the assistant district attorney. We’re talking about city attorneys, who are not a public officer. So here’s my final conclusion about it: Why would I hire somebody who gave me that advice?” (my emphasis)Daily Gazette December 31, 2021
Fast forward to the preliminary agenda for the April 19, 2022, City Council meeting which contains an item on the Mayor’s agenda the title of which is ” Resolution Requesting State Legislation to Expand Residency Requirement for City Attorney.”
In spite of Mayor Kim’s constant assertions to the contrary, because a city attorney is indeed a public officer, in order for a municipality to hire a non-resident as City Attorney, the NY State Legislature must pass a local law allowing the municipality to do so. That is what the Mayor has finally been forced to recognize in putting this item on his agenda.
This proposed resolution contains the following text:
WHEREAS, Section 3 of the Public Officers Law requires that local officers must be residents of the political subdivision or municipal corporation for which he or she shall be chosen or within which he or she will be required to exercise official functions;Resolution
So Vincent DeLeonardis was correct in his advice and Mayor Kim was wrong.
A Character Issue
A person of integrity and humility would feel deep regret for having made a baseless attack in a newspaper on a fellow Saratogian and a fellow city official. Hopefully, on Tuesday night when he introduces his resolution, Mayor Kim will acknowledge his error and publicly apologize to Mr. DeLeonardis. That would be the right thing to do.