Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Monday, 09 January 2023 09:08

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

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
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 what the Council plans to act on before the meeting.
With respect, Mayor Kim constantly talks about transparency but demonstrates an unfortunate selectivity in his application of this important value.
 
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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?
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