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Wednesday, March 14

Housing Authority loose ends — lots of them

I finally got the numbers for some of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, so I made a couple calls today.

Dennis Brunelle started things off.

In addition to talking about the legal opinion and possible litigation looming (see tomorrow's paper/website), I wanted to broach the subject of of Executive Director Ed Spychalski's contract, which has come under some fire,.

Brunelle wasn't available when I wrote that story, but I wanted his input.

He said they intend to do a new comparability study (the study that states that Spychalski's salary should be essentially in-line with a Saratoga Springs School District principal's) and that if that changed his salary, "his contract would have to be renegotiated anyway."

I asked him how that would be possible, since from what I understand and how it has been explained to me by a number of people including the mayor, getting out of the contract would be tough. Essentially, if the board sent him a letter of termination today, and if it was the 90 days before his contract renewal date as required, that would only cut one year off a continuously revolving 5-year contract, leaving four more years.

That's a lot of notice to have to give.

Brunelle said that is not how he sees it, but said he will have to talk to the Housing Authority's attorney about it.

Additionally, he said the idea that the contract was negotiated to the benefit of Spychalski, (see previous link), is "just not true."

"It was instituted to protect both parties," he said.

Finally, I got to the issue of his status on the board.

Mayor Johnson said last week in this article regarding, again, the legal opinion he's looking for (I feel like I am on the Housing Authority beat) that he did not believe Brunelle would be seeking another term (which Johnson would have to appoint him to).

Johnson said he met with Brunelle "a number of times regarding (his tenure on the board)" and said "I think he is interested in doing other things."

"I never said that," Brunelle said. "I told the mayor I would give it some serious thought and that's what I'm doing. I haven't gotten back to the mayor yet."

He said he believes the Housing Authority has done a lot in the last four or five years "A lot of good things," he said, and he still has not decided.

The mayor would not comment on whether he would reappoint Brunelle if he asked.

Eric Weller

Next I caught up with Eric Weller and checked with him about his attendance record.

Some may recall from previous posts (such as this one) that there were accusations floating around that Eric Weller was inappropriately reappointed by Mayor Scott Johnson to his third five-year term (that's commitment!) because A) three terms were allegedly illegal and B) Eric Weller never showed up to meetings in 2010.

Well, as far as I can tell both of those contentions are wrong.

In fact, according to everyone I've talked to (including the man himself) Weller attended most of the meetings in 2010 (not 5 out of 12 as the minutes seem to reflect) but they were not recording his presence because he was in Florida and attending via Skype.

That counts as far as I, and the board, are concerned.

"A couple of times I couldn't Skype-in because of technical difficulties," he said, via cellphone Wednesday.

Next, onto the bylaws.

In 2009 they clearly stated, as John Kaufmann pointed out in his letter to Mayor Scott Johnson: "The terms shall not exceed two (2) terms in succession."

But, things change. In 2010, the bylaws mention nothing of term limits and I hear they may have even been changed again.

"They were in conflict with the state and federal laws on this," Weller explained.

When he was looking for his third term, they researched that law.

According to Weller, the term limits were created in 1987, seemingly arbitrarily. Later, though, it was determined that it did not jibe with the laws HUD laid down in that it limited who the mayor could appoint. So they did away with it and thus, Weller's third term.

Anyway, I thought this would be a story when I started looking into it, but it seems like what we like to call a non-story so it will end here.

And Mayor Johnson wanted me to clarify this point as well, because as he said, there was nothing inappropriate with the appointment he made of Weller, according to the bylaws.

Until next time, stay classy Saratoga.

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Anonymous John Kaufmann said...

Accortding to the 2010 minutes of the SSHA Eric Weller is recorded as absent at six of the twleve meetings. One additional meeting lacked a quorum so no one was identified as being present.

It is asserted in Lucien's blog that Weller attended all the meetings if not physically then by SKYP. This is then qualified by the fact that due to technical difficulties he was unable to use Skpye at times. Having read through the minutes for 2010 it is interesting to note that only at one meeting is his presence via Skype noted for the record. In all the others there is no reference to him via SKYPE. The important thing here is that not only is he listed as absent at the meetings but the minutes and attendance were approved as accurate at subsequent meetings.

For most boards, it would be a source of considerable embarrassment that the minutes for something as important as attendance were repeatedly inaccurate. Like much of what goes on at the Authority which is troubling, such standards are simply dismissed as unimportant.

Similarly, the bylaws that I used in calling for Mr. Weller's dismissal from the board were based on what the Authority had posted on their web site. As with the absences, leaving out dated bylaws on the web site for a year would also normally be considered a source of embarrassment. Not so with this Authority.

It should come as no surprise that the same board who saw no problem with the mismanagement of a bed bug infestation seems to care little about the accuracy of its public records.

March 15, 2012 at 8:06 AM 
Anonymous Milhouse said...

Lucian - Nice reporting. Seems like your blog is more informative than what gets into print. Blame it on editors!

Anyway, general comment - If Weller is in Florida so much, why is he on the board of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority? Seems like it's time for him to go too.

March 15, 2012 at 9:24 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does John Kaufman have a personal vendetta against Dennis Brunelle? I don't see his name on the EOC Building over there. Is that your problem Johnny boy?

March 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed one comment today on the paper's main article was deleted,I read it before deletion and found it rather amusing and not offensive,so why the delete?

March 15, 2012 at 1:34 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go with that one sided reporting. Also one sided comments you choose. Where's that comment about Kauffman?

March 15, 2012 at 7:47 PM 
Blogger Unknown said...

Lucian, where is the story about Cornell's assessment of the bed bug issue. I understand they were at SSHA yesterday to educate staff and residents. Their statement was that the SSHA acted appropriately. They are the experts not these people like John Franck and John Kaufman. They do not even care about these people. John Kaufman tries to make you believe he cares, but isn't he the one who advocated against home bound elderly not to receive free meals? John Franck is another one. He started this crap and dumped it in the mayors lap. Just another back door ploy for office. When are you going to print the real truth? Obviously, not any time to soon, you did not even show up yesterday!

March 16, 2012 at 8:23 AM 
Blogger Unknown said...

Lucian, where is the story of the visit to SSHA from Cornell? Seems The Saratogian does not want to print any good news, only printing the ongoing soap opera. It is my understanding that their statement was that the SSHA acted responsibly to the problem. They spent the day educating staff and residents on bedbugs. John Franck and John Kaufman say they speak for these residents. I seem to remember a time when John Kaufman publicly advocated against home bound elderly receiving free delivered meals. Some humanitarian! And where is John Franck? He started all this crap with his workshop and hasn't said a word sense. He put it on the Mayors lap! Just another ploy of back door politics for office?

March 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM 
Blogger Lucian said...

Ok, against my better judgement I'll respond to at least a couple of things in the comments. A) The Cornelle visit will be in tomorrow's paper alongside exterminators saying there are no more bedbugs in Stonequist. Because of a lack of time on Wednesday and the desire not to have two bedbug stories in the paper this week, we decided to roll them together.
B)I don't know why the comment was deleted. If you give me more info I can find out, though. if you don't want to have a comment-conversation.
C)The comment about Kaufmann was deleted because it was a nasty personal attack. I thought they had something worthwhile to say about his numbers so I paraphrased it which was more than I probably should have done because of its tenor.
I review all comments before they are posted and I will not post personal attacks (on anyone but myself).

March 16, 2012 at 12:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who paid cornell to investigate something they have no authority over,why'd it take 9 months to handle something that should have taken 2 days,why is a dull normal making $150,000 a year,why is there a husband and wife team making over a $100,000 ayear to vacuum rugs? Why has every Newspaper in the capitol district cried out for the replacement of this board and the Housing Authorities Director?..are they all wrong? And why are these by-laws being changed at the last minute.Keep on them Lucian,you're doing a fine piece of investigative reporting..Bravo

March 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why has no one looked into Kauffman and his mismanagement of EOC. Dennis Brunelle was brought there to clean up Kauffman's mess. This is Kauffman trying to get even with no real evidence of any wrong doing by Brunelle and others. Time to wrap this fiasco up.

March 16, 2012 at 9:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another coincidence or not is Board member Eric Weller and Kauffman live on the same street. Is this yet another issue Kauffman has with his neighbor?

March 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media has misinformed the public about the automatic 5% raise which is not accurate and guaranteed bonus which is not accurate as well. The time frame of comparative sudies is erroneous as well because they overlap two different positins from 2006. They all are aware of this but post no retractions. This is mob rule at ir's best and political implications at it's worst.No individual has produced any documtnation of fraud etc. If they have it bring it to the DA or stop voicing opinions of fraud.If the audit underway supports this theory than the proper leagal action will be taken.

April 8, 2012 at 10:31 AM 

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