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, 25 March 2024 10:26

Busted! Moran and Sanghvi’s Inept Attempt To Cover Up On Call Pay to Deputy

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

The image below was taken from Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi's agenda for the March 19, 2024, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. It documents her attempt to inappropriately fund on-call pay for the Deputy Accounts Commissioner for all of 2024.

I have written extensively about former Mayor Kim, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran and Finance Commissioner Sanghvi inappropriately signing off on payments to their deputies in 2023 for so-called "on call" duties. "On Call" pay, readers will recall, was intended to recompense deputies in departments with "24/7 response requirements" who were "responsible for responding to emergency calls and assigning subordinate executive employees duties."[Section E, Resolution for Non-Union Full Time Executive Employees] Instead, Deputy Accounts Commissioner Stacy Connors, for instance, was approved by Moran and paid by Sanghvi for attending a wake, city council meetings, etc. No specific reasons were given for payments to Finance Deputy Heather Crocker and Deputy Mayor Angela Rella. Sanghvi just paid them.

Now Moran, with Sanghvi's assistance, is back trying again to access this on-call money inappropriately for his deputy for 2024.

An Inept Attempt At Damage Control

As documented in an earlier post, Commissioners Sanghvi and Moran attempted to slip through the Council an authorization to move money in the Accounts Department from "Risk and Safety" to a line identified as" On Call -Cover Payroll Expenses." The amount, as seen above in a link to an item on Sanghvi's agenda entitled innocuously "Budget Transfers-Payroll and Benefits," was $6,520.00, enough to fund Connors for another year of on-call pay.

Outed the day before the Council meeting, Moran and Sanghvi were forced to back off, at least temporarily, from this proposal at the March 19, 2024, City Council meeting and to scramble to come up with an explanation for the switch they ended up making at the table.

Their strategy was to replace the number on the budget transfer with a lower number at the table when that agenda item came up and to offer a rambling set of excuses for the change.

Sanghvi claimed the $6,520.00 figure on her agenda was an error. The budget transfer amount should be $1,128.15, she said, to cover a deficit from paying Connors on-call money for the final quarter of 2023. The problem came when Mayor John Safford asked her, "Where did the number $6,520.00 come from?"

Moran and Sanghvi were all over the ballpark with rambling, often irrelevant, stories and excuses, none of which answered the Mayor's question.

Moran often interrupted Sanghvi and had to be asked by the Mayor not to speak over the other Commissioner. At one point, Moran responded, "You think I do this stuff? I'm not involved in these things." This was ironic because his deputy who was sitting behind him was the person who submitted the request for $6,520.00 to the Finance Department. Notice how, in the clip below, Moran goes on the offensive and tries to change the subject to the mayor's office.

In this video clip, Sanghvi responds, "I believe the person [JK: Note she does not name the person she is talking about] redid it, not knowing it was only to cover the shortfall and not for the whole amount. This is my assumption; I have no idea what goes on in people's minds." [My emphasis] Again, the irony is that the person she is talking about who submitted the change is Stacy Connors, who is sitting behind her.

Readers may recall that the resolution establishing on-call was doctored to add the word "event" Adding that word was somehow supposed to justify Connors putting in for on call pay for attending things like the State of the City address I guess. The changed resolution was uploaded to the city's website from Ms. Connors' computer. As of the date of the Council meeting, it still had not been corrected despite the two City Attorneys confirming that this was not part of the resolution passed by the Council.

It Doesn't Hold Up Under Scrutiny

What actually happened was that Sanghvi's office had notified the Accounts Department that they had to address a deficit of $1,128.15. This was money paid in 2024 for the final quarter of on-call for Stacy Connors for 2023. It was pretty simple and direct. Accounts was asked to submit a budget transfer for that amount.

But Moran's Deputy, Stacy Connors, did not submit a budget transfer for that amount. Instead, she altered the amount to $6,520.00. This would cover paying her for being on-call for all of this year. It is important to note that the change would obviously benefit her. It begs credibility that she was "confused" when she altered the request.

Under the commission form of government, Sanghvi and her staff are supposed to scrutinize all expenditures to catch abuses and errors. Sanghvi fails to explain how her staff, who had asked Accounts for a specific amount for the original transfer, was oblivious to the obvious major increase in that amount that they subsequently received and put on Sanghvi's agenda. She also fails to explain how she missed it herself, as she is the one ultimately responsible for what goes on her agenda.

It's Always The Coverup

What really raises questions about Moran's and Sanghvi's culpability in trying to get this funding through the Council is their utterly inept attempts to deflect, rationalize, and explain away the attempt to get the Council to approve funding on-call for Connors for the year.

The full discussion is nine minutes long, which I have included below. While I am providing some excerpts to get a proper sense of the poverty of Moran's and Sanghvi's attempts to evade the issues, I urge the readers to listen to the entire discussion.

Note how Sanghvi dismisses the City Attorneys' opinion, which affirmed that the original resolution was designed for emergencies only, and instead tries to go off on a tangent, claiming the problem is with the resolution, which she claims should be amended or rescinded.

The problem for Sanghvi, and why she was so dismissive of the city attorneys' opinion, was that the resolution was not the issue but its misuse to improperly pay deputies. Based on the discussion, it is unclear whether Sanghvi accepts that the payments were improper, of which her own deputy was a beneficiary.

Some Excerpts

Sanghvi dismisses attorneys opinion

Of course, the opinion affirmed that the adopted resolution did not authorize the payments to her deputy and two others. It's no wonder she dismisses it.

The Account Department Was Advised By Finance What To Request To Correct The Deficit

The Entire Discussion

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