On September 14, 2023, Travelers Insurance notified the city that as of January 1, 2024, they would no longer be insuring Saratoga Springs.
Readers of this blog may have observed its increasingly shrill tone. I have been writing repeatedly that the indifference to law and reality by the Saratoga Springs City Council would eventually bring the proverbial chickens home.
That day has come, although Mayor Kim and Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran and Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi have apparently tried to suppress the news until after the upcoming election.
The reason for the city losing its insurance coverage?
The City of Saratoga Springs’ approach to risk and safety management creates an unacceptable increase in the hazards contemplated for the City. Therefore, we are nonrenewing your policy effective 1/1/2024.Letter of September 14, 2023 from Travelers
I knew there would be some sort of letter coming from Travelers, but I had expected it would be to notify the city of an increase in premiums. I FOILED the city for such a letter. That FOIL would have eventually produced nothing, as is now evident, because rather than raise rates, Travelers has simply decided to end the city’s insurance all together.
The letter, received by the city a month ago, was released today by Commissioner of Public Safety James Montagnno, who somehow learned about the document and requested and received a copy on October 12, 2023.
The Financial Cost Of This Debacle Will Be Huge
In a prepared statement to the media, Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino observed:
The result of Mayor Kim’s decision to leave the City without a Director of Risk and Safety for the first time in decades will be that the City will need to obtain its insurance through the municipal equivalent of an assigned risk pool. This will cost the City close to a million dollars in additional premiums each year.Commissioner Montagnino, October 13, 2023
Mayor Kim Is Never Responsible
In today’s online Daily Gazette story Kim, in typical fashion, tries to place the blame for any lack of transparency in sharing the letter with his fellow Council members on his Deputy Angela Rella:
Kim said he was informed by the insurance broker the city uses “a week or two ago, or so” [JK: try a month ago] and wasn’t sure if his Deputy Mayor Angela Rella shared it with the commissioners [JK: she didn’t share it with Montagnino].Daily Gazette
“We are already anticipating a 78% [increase],” Kim said. “The exact number I can’t recall, but I think it was 78%.”
In the article, Montagnino states that the city had a civil service list with qualified candidates to fill the critical Risk and Safety position, but Kim allowed the position to go unfilled for months following the departure of long time and well respected Risk and Safety Management Director Marilyn Rivers. (Rivers is currently suing the city over the toxic employment environment she was forced to endure). This blogger has written extensively about both the disastrous handling by Kim of Risk and Safety and his vindictive abuse of Ms. Rivers.
Instead of filling the position, Kim finally added the responsibilities of a Risk and Safety Manager to the duties of newly appointed City Attorney Michael Phillips. Not surprisingly Travelers did not consider this approach to managing the city’s risk and safety adequate.
Kim: It’s Everybody Else’s Fault
In spite of the Travelers’ letter clearly stating why they are dropping city coverage, Kim, without any evidence, gave the press a different reason:
Kim, in turn, blames the prior administration’s actions for lawsuits the city is facing as well as the Attorney General’s investigation into whether the city violated the Civil Rights of Black Lives Matter protestors during prior summer protests.Daily Gazette October 13, 2023
I will not subject the readers of this blog to Kim’s usual rehashing that the city’s problems are all rooted in the actions of the previous administration. In the article, he goes on about all the money the city is having to pay for attorneys to represent past elected officials in the New York State Attorney General’s investigation and in the cost of defending the city in the lawsuit brought by Black Lives Matter leader Lexis Figuereo.
But the letter from Travelers Insurance could not be clearer as to why Travelers is declining to insure the city. It says nothing about lawsuits or investigations. Risk and Safety are critical to minimizing the city’s liability, and Kim simply cannot or will not admit this basic truth.
Why Would Any Insurance Company Want To Take On The Liability Of Insuring the City under the Current Council?
Consider the following episodes and ask yourself, if you were the executive of an insurance company, would you do business with a city that had the current elected officials in charge.
- Early in his term as Mayor, Kim wrote an intemperate letter to the city’s insurance broker over Travelers’ decision to settle a lawsuit brought by a former employee against the city. If that were not enough, he refused to authorize payment for the insurance deductible for months. I can imagine executives at Travelers asking, “What is going on with Saratoga Springs?”
- Kim released to the news media text messages from officials in the previous administration meant to support the complaints by Black Lives Matter following BLM leader Lexis Figuereo’s filing of a lawsuit against the city for their alleged damages to him. Again, executives at Travelers would be asking, “Why, when we are being sued, is this guy sending stuff he thinks is damaging to the area media?”
- The Council, led by Mayor Kim, passed a resolution condemning, in the broadest terms, the city for being racist, again when the city is both under investigation and being sued. This country has a long and horrific history of racism and Saratoga like most cities can point to such incidents as well as times when women, immigrants, and others have been the targets of discrimination. But Kim’s vague, intemperate, and sloppily worded resolution, while being useless as a thoughtful history lesson, is ripe to be be exploited by Figuereo’s lawyer in their lawsuit. Again, I can imagine in the board rooms of Travelers Insurance, they would be asking, “What is going on in Saratoga Springs?”
Minita Sanghvi’s Idea Of Transparency
It is worth noting that missing in Finance Commissioner Sanghvi’s presentation of the proposed 2024 budget last week, during which she also sounded the theme of blaming the previous administration, this time for the city’s budget woes, was the fact that the city would need to find a million dollars due to our loss of an insurance carrier. Missing also was who was responsible for this disaster.
We Will Pay Dearly
I have taken to calling the current Council “the Wrecking Crew.” This latest debacle will probably cost our city $1,000,000.00 in premiums and increased deductibles. Readers should understand that this is just the most recent public revelation of the impact of the incompetence and vindictiveness in City Hall. There will be more.