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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Wednesday, March 30

Union and city officials instructed not to discuss contract provisions before council vote

The air of mystery around yesterday's contract vote by the city's two CSEA units will likely not be lifted until April 5.

My first indication that the public would not be privy to this information was yesterday when I walked into the vote as it was still occurring and was told by public safety employee and union rep Lisa Nolan that a vote was not going on, despite the ballot box, and publicly posted notice that a vote was indeed happening on the union bulletin board right down the hall.

My suspicions were confirmed by two phone calls today. The first was a message from Mayor Scott Johnson, who said he could not discuss specific provisions in respect to an agreement made with union officials that neither side would talk to the press until an agreement had been reached.

The second was a call from CSEA regional spokeswoman Therese Assalian, who said that she had been told by city union officials that both sides had been instructed by a mediator not to discuss provisions before an agreement had been finalized.

"I normally can give some details," she said, "but I didn't want to push it because I didn't want (the city union official she spoke with) to feel that they were violating this type of trust."

After my run in during the vote yesterday, I reached out to the New York State Committee on Open Government (COOG) to find out whether or not the provisions of the preliminary agreement was protected information under FOIL.

In a return call today, COOG Executive Director Robert Freeman said that because negotiations are over and both sides have the proposed contract, disclosing provisions would not "impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations," which is the legal benchmark for withholding the information.

He also said that because so many people had already seen the proposal, union members and city officials, that it could not confidently be considered a secret.

The City Council's next meeting is scheduled for April 5, where I'm guessing the contract will be put up for a vote.


Anonymous Kyle York said...

Excellent reporting! Bob Freeman KNOWS his STUFF.
But you're up against City Hall- The STUFF of NO's.

-Thanks...and Write On!
Kyle York

March 30, 2011 at 6:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick - Why not FOIL the proposed contract to give the public some lead time to prepare their case for support or non-support or if the mediator has decided why is a Council Vote needed at all. This whole process seem womewhatstarnge. The employees are talkign about it but the taxpayers don't know what's up or down.

March 30, 2011 at 7:13 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Council will present at next meeting and vote at following meeting after public comment. Kyle - I don't think you'll be happy with Bob Freeman's recommendation.

March 31, 2011 at 2:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If these contracts represent 80% of the total general fund budget or roughly 29 Million Dollars. Why not let the public review them.
Then again, why not let the public vote on Charter Change.


"Chump change" has new meaning.
Getting rid of "the chumps" in November.

April 1, 2011 at 7:41 AM 
Anonymous Kyle York said...

I AM happy with Freeman's decision. He really knows The Law... and the law is NOT on the side of the City's action. That's a fact.

But this City Council is, of course, a system of Law unto itself. They dismiss the "paralegals" of those crazy kids of the NYS Supreme Court.

So, Robert Freeman? Please. His grasp of "Open Meeting" law and "Privileged Information"... he is not worthy of even GAZING upon our City Hall.

-Kyle York
Bow Low and Do As They Say

April 1, 2011 at 6:19 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This city is not representing the citizens of Saratoga. They are happiest when meeting behind closed doors or stopping legal actions (charter change). There should be some teeth for punishment in the abuse of "Open Meeting" law and "Privileged Information" that this Council has been abusing for some time now. What happened to the City employee who was suspended for 30 days because of workplace violence after the voting results in the DPW?

April 2, 2011 at 10:43 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any word on the Tony Fachette (DPW Foreman) racial attack on Tuesday?
The contracts passed 45-35 and an angry Fichette verbally and physically assaulted a co-worked calling ( The N Word) multiple time and then threatened to beat the co-worker up.

This Foreman Fichette should be fired!!
Yet another Cival Rights case for the city to deal with

April 2, 2011 at 10:59 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For someone that was anti-union at several presentations it seems you have a new perspective on things. Guess your 1000% to 1400% theory is no longer part of the discussion. You can't have it both ways. I'm beginning to believe you have become anti everything. Is there something thta has happened lately you support??

April 2, 2011 at 1:45 PM 
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April 4, 2011 at 9:27 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick, you know quite well that I did not deny (or confirm) to you what was "going on" when you couldn't accept what you read on the posted signs! Sorry you were left to fabricate your " blog" Lisa Nolan, VP CSEA City Hall Unit

April 9, 2011 at 10:05 AM 
Blogger Patrick H. Donges, City Desk said...


I asked you what was going on, to which I was told "nothing." I proceeded to ask if there was a vote being taken, to which you shook your head in a motion that is traditionally meant to mean "no" (side to side, left and right, you get the idea). A simple explanation of the arbitrator's request that neither side speak to the press would've been appropriate. If a member of the general public had walked in and asked the same questions, would you have answered the same way?
Maybe I misunderstood our exchange.

April 9, 2011 at 10:58 AM 

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