As background to this scandal, I refer readers to this earlier blog: https://saratogatodaynewspaper.com/sections/saratoga-springs-politics/item/16579-don-t-you-dare-park-in-commissioner-montagnino-s-parking-space
There have been designated parking spaces for Saratoga Springs City Council members in the city owned parking lot behind City Hall for years. More spots, though, have now been allocated to the Commissioners’ Deputies, and it appears that Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino has acted inappropriately in designating these spaces a tow away zone.
Current City Council members seem to have an exceptionally strong sense of proprietary rights regarding these spots. First it was Finance Commissioner Sanghvi calling 911 to complain about a car parked in her space that turned out to belong to Mayor Kim’s wife. Then it was Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino declaring his parking space a tow away zone.
I have spoken to a number of past Council members, and they have all told me that, on occasion, they would find some interloper had parked in their space. Their response was simply to find another space that was available.
That was then….
Do The Council Members and Their Deputies Merit Their Own Parking Spaces?
I personally have no problem with designating parking spaces in this lot for our elected officials. They are paid a mere $14,500.00 salary and, in spite of the fact that they officially are part-time, most regularly spend many more hours in City Hall attending to city business.
I do have reservations about the Deputies now also having allotted spaces there, though, when an agreement with the City Center when it was constructed allocated sixty spaces in the facility for the city government’s use. Part of the idea was to free up the well-located city owned lot for public use.
The City Center parking facility is a mere 70 feet from the Deputies’ current parking spaces. According to one calculator on the web, it takes approximately 30 seconds to walk 70 feet. Most people who work would love to have an easily accessible free sheltered parking spot that close to their place of employment.
Why tie up the prime spots now designated to Deputies twenty-four/seven/three hundred and sixty-five days a year? For that matter perhaps the Commissioners might also want to consider using the spots in the City Center garage.
Did Commissioner Montagnino Have the Right to Designate His Space a Tow Away Zone?
The tow-away zone signs that have been posted are confusing. They were done by the Department of Public Safety under the direction of Commissioner Montagnino. One sign is situated in front of Commissioner Montagnino’s parking space and now another one has appeared in the space designated for the Deputy Commissioner of Accounts. Does this mean that only those two spaces have been designated as tow away zones or are the signs meant to apply to all the Council and Deputy spaces?
Whether or not you agree that these people should have the perk of private parking spaces, Commissioner Montagnino violated the city’s parking codes in unilaterally authorizing these “tow-away” zones.
The lot behind the city hall is described in the city’s code in Chapter 225-32, Schedule XXII as a two-hour lot. There is nothing in the code for this lot that authorizes a tow-away zone, let alone designates parking for public officials and their deputies.
There are a number of sections of the city code that address parking regulation.
Chapter 225-26 Schedule XXX identifies areas where parking is prohibited (the parking spaces that constitute the city lot are not included). The code lists a variety of streets that prohibit parking on one side or the other or on both sides.
Chapter 225-26 does give the Commissioner of Public Safety unilateral authority to make certain temporary regulations to cover emergencies or special conditions and also gives the Commissioner certain discretion to change hours and time limits for parking upon proper posting and in conformity with the chapter. I assume this authority is meant for things like parades, road races, festivals, etc.
Chapter 178, “Public Property,” allows for property owned by the city to be posted with a notice regarding its use, and any violation of that notice would be considered a trespass under that chapter. However, the notice must be posted at the “main entrance” or other approach.
So the city can, not surprisingly, regulate parking, but to do so properly requires following proper procedures and regulations. Nowhere is the Commissioner of Public Safety given the authority to unilaterally have his parking space or those of his colleagues designated as tow-away zones.
Hoisted On Their Own Petard
Commissioner Montagnino frequently references that he is an attorney and often resorts to legal verbiage when making points.
This recent business with parking spaces is part of a broader pattern of the current Council’s sense of both entitlement and an indifference to properly research the law before rewarding themselves with the city’s resources.
They need to spend less time criticizing past administrations and touting their rigorous administration of the city and spend more time carrying out due diligence before acting.
The previous administration, which enjoys the contempt of this current government, had two lawyers whose duties included vetting proposed actions to ensure their legality before those Council members took any action.
What Will the Members of the Council Do Now That the Violation of City Code Has been Pointed Out to Them?