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Friday, June 22

Responses to comments on the most recent SSHA story

Good comments to most of the recent Anonymous posts on my last blog post (the ones I actually posted). It's the kind of civic dialogue I think comments are there to promote.

So on to the points raised.

To the first anonymous who quoted the TU article (I actually had the same quotes from Eric Weller in an article or two I wrote. He made them at the City Council meeting on the big screen.)

His/her point was:
As we understand it, Chairman Weller has said in recent days that the Authority may resist HUD's new salary guidelines. Not long ago he was quoted in the following TU story saying that the SSHA was not subject to City or State law, but only followed HUD rules and regs. So is he now saying that the Authority will violate HUD regulations.

Yes, Weller did call into question how HUD would enforce their measures and I know they set aside extra money in the legal fees area of the budget for “possible litigation” with the board, though they would not elaborate on what for. I will be addressing it when I write about the
It will be interesting to see where the mayor's office, and indeed the city council as a whole, will end up on this when they receive the response to their Compliance and Communication letter (my feeling is they will get more of the latter than the former, but since I have received neither on my requests for their response, I'll have to wait and see).

Points from Anonymous #s 2 and 3 which I think are the same person.
The comments were:

Mrs. S. passionately states her husband did not take "a.....penny" for his work with the affordable housing group but the former chair says Ed got a $5,000 bonus for that work. Have I got that right? And why is he getting paid mileage when he was given a car? Actually he maybe not only was given a truck but apparently he (or maybe a member of his family?) had use also of that Jeep with the mysterious EZ Pass that if I recall was Ed's personal pass put on an Authority car. Any way you add it up Ed is more than generously compensated.

Mrs. S. says that, yes. Dennis Brunelle said otherwise, but he said so before it had become an issue.

Co-mingling their funds is a big no-no. I'm not an accountant, so I can't tell what's ok and what's not, but I did raise the issue when I spoke to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. He said he had not heard from his auditors about the non-profit, Saratoga Affordable Housing Group, but that
he would direct them to investigate the potential co-mingling of the funds.

Early on, when we were questioning the board about Ed Spychalski's salary, Brunelle justified his huge pay increases, in part, through his work at the SAHG, saying that if they had to pay a developer for that there would be a hefty fee, so really they were saving money.

Then, of course, came the letters from employees of the SSHA, including Spychalski, all saying the same thing: “It was all volunteer time.”

From beginning to end it seems like the story changed, but I guess the audit will be the ultimate decider.

As for mileage, I'm told he only has the mileage covered when he is officially working, not when he drives to and from work with the taxpayer funded truck. That mileage he is taxed on.

The next comment was:
On a different but related topic. I understand Callucci and Ivins, the Mayor's
appointees, voted to add $7,000 to the SSHA travel/training item in the budget
bringing the total up from $15,000 to $22,000. This seems like a lot but I'm
wondering what other agencies of this size spend on this. Any idea?

I don't know what other ones make, but the $7k addition was a compromise. The line item was initially cut from $30,000 to $15,000. Ken Ivins pointed out that it was one of the areas they were criticized and suggested initially not raising the $15k at all.

One of the other members of the board --Johanna Dushlek – said with three new members on the board they shouldn't cut back on conferences and other development opportunities and suggested bringing it back up to $30,000. While I don't know how much other organizations spend on these conferences, they are always in places like Las Vegas or Orlando, so it's probably not cheap. Interesting point, though, I'll look into it.

Keep up the intelligent, informed commenting. If you have questions that I haven't addressed, post them and I'll review them so that next time I talk to the board or Spychalski, I can ask them. And of course, keep the comments classy, Saratoga.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the comments are very interesting. Yes there are other abuses with other agencies in the system, but the main problem here is the lack of understanding the board of directors demonstrate and their failure to act in a competent manner. Where is the mayor in all this? He recently appointed some of the new board members. The board of director should resign and stay away from what they demonstrate to have no knowledge of, running a housing authority. Their arrogance shows every time they make a public comment.

June 23, 2012 at 2:04 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

The mayor is cautious on it, to say the least. He stated that some of the issues at the SSHA are indefensible, but also said his office can't do anything to stop them, except report them to the state (which he did).
We'll have to wait and see what the SSHA says about the Compliance and Communication letter recently sent that orders them to comply with state laws. I get the impression, though, that they are prepared to go to court to fight any challenge to their "authority" (har har).

June 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucian, I agree to a point about the Mayor. He had the opportunity to appoint board members which he did. The new board members are now part of the problem by going along with the same old way of doing business.

June 23, 2012 at 3:21 PM 
Anonymous John Kaufmann said...

I spciically FOILed SSHA for any documentation that they reported the personal use of agency vehicles by Ed S. to IRS. I asked that this include the method and any related data as to how they arrived at the figure. The response was that they had no documents related to my request.

Sadly, this is consistent with the apparent indifference by the management of SSHA and the board for laws and regulations covering their operation. So far, SSHA seems to have lived in a kind of bubble, with the possible exception of the Comptroller's audit. HUD so far has shown little appetite to reign the place in.
Just as disheartening has been the performances of Ivins and Collucci. They have made a few minor nit picks about procedure while voting for the budget that included Ed S's excessive salary and supporting a continuation of excessive travel and training moneys. They also both voted to make Eric Weller the chairman. Those of us familiar with these two individuals were neither surprised at their timidity nor the fact that the mayor selected them to be on the board.

Even the most casual walk around the "terraces" shows the need for painting and repairs where the money should really go.

Also, most of the people who work for the Authority who are outside the favored players like Ed and Cyndy (his bookeeper) have received only very modest raises. The use of the freeze is just another example of both the poverty of management and fairness that is at the core of this troubled institution.

June 23, 2012 at 6:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares

June 23, 2012 at 10:50 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

I edited the next quote, only because it made a remark that I have no way to corroborate, don’t exactly know what it is referring to and was made in more rude a way than I want to let go. However, they are entitled to their opinion so here is the edited version:
“Who cares about John Kauffman? He said he is working to forward an agenda (someone who I don’t know, and thus cannot in good conscience put online without vetting) and Comm. Franck who is looking at bigger and better things. His leadership at EOC should be questioned as well as his and Franck’s quest to stop affordable housing for needy Saratogians.

June 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucian-The explanation of the increase for training and travel in the SSHA budget strikes me as a familiar dance. Joanna gives a highball proposal,then everyone congratulates themselves for being compromisers and not giving her everything she wants,only some. But here's another scenario. What if Ivins had stuck to his guns and urged the Board not to alter the $15,000 original proposal. After all he did express concern about increasing the amount suggesting people tended to spend up to whatever amount was allotted. So at this point instead of giving in and voting for the increase he might have suggested that they stick with the $15,000 and if there were additional requests to go to training conferences which would put them over the budgeted amount, let the person who wants to go come and make the case to the Board and convince them that the additional expenditure was warranted. This would also add some transparency. He might have lost the vote but he would have been a welcome voice or reason and restraint--and he might just have gotten the vote. We'll never know. So far the urge by Ivins and Calucci to go along and get along with the other Board members and Ed has been embarrassing to watch.

June 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would think if anyone is trying to stop affordable housing for needy Saratogians onemight look first at Ed Spychalski and his Board who have been using money that should have gone to housing instead to line Ed's pockets and those of a few other chosen employees over there.

June 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

To the anonymous commenter who posted a question about a city councilperson's property being under-assessed, I did not publish your comment because I have not looked into what you are talking about. I've heard the rumors before, but I have not looked into them (and not because Barb Lombardo stopped me, as you suggested).

If you have specific information about the issue, please e-mail me at and I'll look into it.

Thank you.

June 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree with one of the previous comments regarding Ken Ivins and Al Calucci. I too had high hopes as most people did that they would be the ones to stand-up for making the proper changes and be the lightning rods for change. I’m disappointed to see they appear to be part of the problem now. I actually feel bad for them now, as they are good guys who are letting Mr. Ed embarrass them and don’t do anything about it. I urge Mr. Ivins and Mr Calucci to please stand-up for what I and others thought you believed in.

June 27, 2012 at 3:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colucci is a wild card. His new best friend is the clown at Jefferson Terrace who comes to the City Council meetings crying about police not protecting the residents there. In an article in the Times Union he was quoted as saying he takes late night walks encountering drug dealers and other thugs. According to tenants there is no one out late night and he is fabricating the situation and now Colucci is walking the beat there too. Looks to be a ploy for these two to get this guy on the Housing Board. Isn't there enough boobs on there already?

June 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM 

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