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, 13 May 2024 10:34

DA Launches Investigation Of “On-Call Pay” for Deputies

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

According to the Daily Gazette, the Saratoga County District Attorney has initiated a probe related to on-call pay for Saratoga Springs Deputy Commissioners. On April 24, 2024, Saratoga County Judge James Murphy III authorized subpoenas that were served on the city on April 25, 2024.

The subpoena seeks all on-call pay forms, payroll records and approval of on-call forms and records that “note the amount of on-call pay” for Crocker, Rella, Connors and O’Neill.

The subpoena also request the vacation and leave requests for the three deputy commissioners and deputy mayor, as well as “emails to or from Brook Vanbuskirk, Lisa Ribis, and Stacy Connors discussing Section ‘E’ of the ‘on-call’ pay resolution that was passed by the City of Saratoga Springs Council 02/09/2023.”

Daily Gazette Website May 10, 2024

The Gazette has declined to report on the story in the past, and the article seems somewhat confused about what the investigation is about.

Based on the items reported as being sought by the DA and Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi’s comments, there seem to potentially be two aspects.

The first concern seems to be whether the Deputy Commissioners improperly applied for and received bonus money designated for being on-call outside of normal city business operation hours. I speculate that this could also include whether their respective bosses are culpable for approving their payments.

The second concerns the changing of the wording of the resolution that authorized payments for on-call. The version approved by the Council was at some point later altered adding the word “event” to broaden the description of the circumstances that would make a Deputy eligible for the on-call pay. Tampering with official public records is a potential felony. Earlier this year, the City Attorneys determined that the resolution had been altered but did not identify who did this or how it was done. In an earlier post, I reproduced a document indicating the resolution had been altered on the computer of Stacy Connors, the Deputy Commissioner of Accounts.

Sanghvi told the Gazette that “as far as I know, the City Council voted on it twice with the word in it.” There was a second vote on the resolution to correct a typographical error regarding the vacation benefits for deputies. By that time, the resolution had been altered. The Gazette article, however, contains the original language of the resolution that the Council, including Sanghvi, voted for, which does not contain the altered language. Regrettably, the reporter did not follow up and point this out to Sanghvi.

Commissioner of Finance Minita Sanghvi told the Daily Gazette that the investigation “seems like a fishing expedition to me.” It is important to note that her office had to approve the payments to the Deputies and that she personally approved the bonus pay for her own Deputy.

Moran’s Timing

It does not seem coincidental that Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran issued his Request For Proposals for law firms to act directly as attorneys for his office along with Public Works and Finance on the same day the city received the subpoenas. Moran had previously denounced the opinion issued by the two city attorneys, Tony Izzo and David Harper, that had confirmed the doctoring of the on-call resolution and raised doubts as to the legality of payments for on-call.

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