[JK: A recent FOIL revealed more examples of inappropriate language used by Mayor Ron Kim in city hall communications. The following piece by Mike Brandi, the chair of the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee who submitted the FOIL, documents how toxic the environment in city hall has become and includes what appears to be a concerning example of foul language being used by Kim in reference to an employee under his supervision.]
After several leaks of internal emails from the local Democratic party posted to your blog, it has become wildly apparent that Mayor Kim is prone to sending late-night, expletive-laden, abusive emails. Accordingly, under the Freedom of Information Law, I requested all emails sent by Kim which contained a certain expletive we all know as the “F-word.” In response, two heavily redacted emails were provided.
One of which piqued my interest because it happened to be in reference to a FOIL appeal that I had submitted in early 2022. Specifically, on February 4, 2022, Mayor Kim emailed the City FOIL officer asking to set up a meeting about my FOIL appeal. Subsequently, Kim forwarded that same email to Deputy Mayor Angela Rella and his executive assistant, Kerry Huyben. The forwarded email to Rella and Huyben added heavily redacted commentary from Kim. The City released only Kim’s writing that “I did some research on FOIL appeals” and “f***ing”. Keep in mind that at this time, there was no designated City Attorney (despite Kim’s attempts to appoint himself), and there was no designated FOIL Appeals Officer. So, it appears that Kim was seeking to inject himself into this process.
It was not unreasonable to assume that Mayor Kim’s bad language in that email may have been directed at me, a citizen exercising his FOIL rights. Accordingly, I appealed the City’s redactions, seeking to have the email released in full.
This is where things take a more sinister turn. City Attorney Tony Izzo upheld the City’s redactions but clarified the redacted portion of the February 4 email. Izzo writes that the expletive-containing sentence in question contained “[Kim’s] opinion of the work-related conduct of a named city employee.” Accordingly, Mayor Kim, at 10:56 PM on a Friday night, used offensive language in communicating about an unknown public employee’s work-related performance to two other city employees. This is wildly inappropriate.
With the City’s insistence that the redactions remain, we can only speculate as to which employee has drawn the mayor’s ire and what exactly he was saying about them. But one thing is clear, Mr. Kim is a bully who has no qualms about exposing the City to liability in creating an overtly hostile work environment. It is completely inappropriate in any circumstance, but especially for a mayor of one of the most respected cities in the country, to use this sort of language to refer to an employee or in a communication with employees under his supervision.
So what is the big deal? Considering the context, this is no minor incident. The United States Department of Labor classifies “verbal abuse including offensive, profane and vulgar language” as workplace violence and identifies this sort of intimidating, discourteous behavior as a “level 1” warning sign for workplace violence. Researchers at the Southhampton School of Business found that “Repeatedly swearing, making threats and engaging in verbal abuse can lead to depression, stress, reduced morale, absenteeism, retention problems, and reduced productivity [and can] damage the image of the organization.” Karen Hinds, Diversity and Inclusion expert and founder and CEO of the Workplace Success Group states, “Bosses who use profanity to express themselves are in fact, attacking morale and creating a hostile work environment. Their behavior is a poor reflection of their management skills, and in essence, this behavior is workplace bullying.”
Heck, even the Trump White House had standards when it came to profanity. Your readers may recall, Anthony Scaramucci was fired after merely 10 days working for the Trump White House for making “comments that were inappropriate for a person in that position” after a vulgar rant to a reporter.
In closing, Kim’s behavior here is simply reprehensible. Such language directed at an employee’s performance is nothing short of bullying. In choosing his words, Kim reveals much about his character.
In reference to government transparency, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” There is no better cure for the rot of government mischief than the citizen exercising their right to throw back the curtain and examine the behavior of their elected officials. While these two emails were disclosed, one is left to wonder how many other instances of Kim’s inappropriate behavior remain out of the light of day and how many more we may see as Kim’s administration bumbles toward the expiration of its term.
Excerpt From Tony Izzo To Mike Brandi
This email contains the F word regarding a city employee. Note that the email thread includes a response from Robin McFee, who is the executive assistant to the city attorney. She handles FOIL requests. This all occurred relatively early in the Kim administration when he was attempting to act as the city attorney. Vince DeLeonardis, the previous city attorney, acted as the appeal officer for FOIL denials. At this stage, McFee does not know who is acting as the appeal officer with DeLeonardis gone and no city attorney.
Mayor Kim Responds To Email From Bill McTygue
Here Kim emails to his deputy, Angela Rella, in response to an email from Bill McTygue. McTygue’s original email is pretty much all redacted, so we do not know what McTygue said to prompt Kim’s email.