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Tuesday, May 15

Stop or I'll say stop again!

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council voted to forward a “Compliance and Communication Plan” to the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority.

The plan, drafted by Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, outlines steps the SSHA can take to comply with state law that requires housing authorities must submit their employee salaries to the City Council for approval, something the SSHA has not done in more than a decade.

The plan states that the SSHA “shall bring forth to the Saratoga Springs City Council for approval” all salaries and salary increases since May 2000 to this year for retroactive approval as well as all future salaries and an annual report from the SSHA.

Many of the commissioners, while admitting they would likely not be seeing any of the money already paid out over the last decade, have stated that in order to look at future salaries, they would need to revisit some of the major salary increases over the last ten years.

Most notably in that was SSHA Executive Director Ed Spychalski’s $152,000 annual salary which is up more than 100 percent from the $75,ooo he made in 2006 when he took the position.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck, though, has also questioned SSHA accountant Cindy Gaugler's similar salary increases. She went from $48,000 in 2006 to $85,000 this year, according to the city's records.

Mayor Scott Johnson, while voting in favor of the plan, was hesitant about demanding the salaries for approval because, according to a legal opinion from the city attorney’s office, the city has no recourse if the SSHA does not comply with the requirements.

“I’m not quite sure we have the authority for that,” he said. “If they refuse, what will our next step be? As a council we should be prepared with a plan B.”

Johnson suggested bringing representatives from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal and the SSHA into one meeting to work out what organization has oversight over the SSHA — a suggestion proposed by Madigan earlier this year.

“I thought the same thing,” she said, “but I determined this was the best course for now,” referring to her proposed plan.

Franck, who has argued vehemently for the city to take a more assertive role over the SSHA, said “We shouldn’t even have to ask for this. I don’t know what a plan B is. I just think we have to follow what the law is.”

He said most of the SSHA’s employee salaries would be likely approved by the Council without issue. "I've seen the numbers in Civil Service and most of them are not egregious," he said.

“They can say no,” he said. “If we don’t even ask, I think we’re derelict in our duties.”

One of the SSHA board members was in the audience at the City Council meeting and said he agreed with Johnson’s suggestion to hold a meeting to work out the issue of oversight.

“We have new board members with a different mentality than old board members,” said Al Callucci, one of the newest members of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Board of Directors.

In the end, though, the Council voted to move forward with Madigan’s Compliance and Communication Plan as a first step.

Below is the plan. The only thing they changed from the draft is that the bi-annual report was changed to annual.
Compliance Communication Plan SSHA-DRAFT CCM 05-15-12(1)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ifines ideoccThis Council has undermined the Mayor's Department authority and responsibility from Day 1.Starting with the South Broadway Committee which is under the Planning Department which is a under the authority of the Mayor which from several cources created very little progress to now this unilateral action. It is disgusting and unprofessional.It would be similar to the Mayor's Department giving input to the Chief of Police and Fire on how to run their departments or possibly giving direction to DPW to clean or plow streets.

May 16, 2012 at 7:26 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sad day for Saratoga Springs.To think we will have to tolerate the guidance a dnlack of management ability of some members of this council who are completely unqualified for their postions for another 18 months is a travesty and a embarssamnt to the city and the taxpayers.

May 16, 2012 at 7:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The travesty is how John Franck has used Madigan to go after the Housing Authority. She will be the fall guy when the city is caught holding the bag after a court will rule in the Housing favor after an exhausting court battle using taxpayer money to decide a couple of salaries. Let's see Franck already lost for the city several thousands of tax dollars fighting the assessment of the Breyo home. Now he is going to try to use more money with this issue. Sounds like a big power grab for a council member who also is eyeballing South Broadway development to benefit himself.

May 16, 2012 at 5:16 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos to the commissioner of finance for doing what the mayor has failed to do.

Why the mayor has refused to address these issues head on is anybody's guess but clearly it is his responsibility. Consider the following.

Issue: So who is in charge?

Answer: The Authority functions under the “auspices” of the City’s executive

Perhaps the most fundamental question that has come out of what The Saratogian has labeled “a mess” still seems unanswered. Who’s in charge?

From the outset this question has been allowed to go unanswered. In a December 22, 2011, story THE TIMES UNION reported that the mayor’s office had not initially acted to address the bedbug infestation “…because of territorial concerns with the federal housing authority.”

The answer to the question ‘who’s in charge’ may have also been muddied by some news reports and editorial comments. For example, in a January 23, 2012, editorial THE SARATOGIAN noted that the Authority’s “… lack of accountability is exacerbated by the confusing relationships between the Authority, its board, the city, the state and federal government.”

While it is certainly true that the management of the City’s public housing stock is influenced in large part by rules and regulations of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because of the federal resources which help support its operation, it seems clear that the Authority and its operations are fundamentally governed by the New York State Public Housing Law and the Authority’s own By-laws.

The State Public Housing Law requires the mayor to appoint five (5) of the Authority’s seven (7)- members and, at Section 34, allows the mayor to “…remove a member of the authority for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or misconduct in office, but only after the member shall have been given a copy of charges and an opportunity to be heard in person…”

Title 3 (J) and 3 (K) of the City Charter further define the mayor’s role. Tile 3 (J) reads in part “The Mayor shall make the following appointments: … the Housing Authority Board of Directors…”

And at Tile 3 (K.):
“The Mayor shall have responsibility for the following functions and boards in City government and shall organize such functions to ensure efficient, cost effective operations: … assigned to the Mayor’s office by action of the Council or by virtue of Federal, State, or local laws.”

Finally, the Housing Authority’s By-laws affirm the role of the mayor. The by-laws place the Authority “… under the auspices of the mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs…”

And the same By-laws specifically recognize the authority of the mayor to remove members for ‘just cause.’

May 17, 2012 at 1:01 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It would be similar to the Mayor's Department giving input to the Chief of Police and Fire on how to run their departments or possibly giving direction to DPW to clean or plow streets." Are you kidding me!!!...He's been trying to run everyone's department since he took office. Maybe if he spent more time on his own responsibilities he'd actually get something done. He can't even manage the building inspector's office. How many inspectors have we gone through in the last few years? This mayor has been a major disappointment, possibly one of the worst.

May 18, 2012 at 7:53 PM 

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