Blogs > Saratogian Newsroom

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

Wednesday, November 28

"Any day now..."

The decision about whether the city can legally fire the former Accounts Department Assessment Clerk Mary Zlotnick is expected "any day now" according to Mark McCarthy, the Harris Beach attorney who represents the city in labor relations or human resources issues.

Zlotnick said she was a "whistleblower" when she went to the press with accusations of malfeasance on the part of City Assessor Tony Popolizio and other members of the Accounts Department, but it remains unclear as to whether that defense will stick.

In her hearing, she also said she went to the State Attorney General, City Police and the District Attorney’s office with her accusations, though no charges were ever filed.

The city said she can't be a whistleblower since no one knew she was going to the police with her accusations. In fact, city officials say they didn't know about it until Zlotnick was already facing charges of insubordination.
Zlotnick used the whistleblower defense in an administrative hearing held to determine whether the Accounts Department can, indeed, fire her for the five charges of insubordination and misconduct they allege.

Many of the charges stem from her going to the media with allegations against the Popolizio, her superior in the office.

She alleged, in part, that he favored real-estate consultant Diane Young in the reduction of condominium assessments throughout the city and that he inappropriately lowered the assessment of Deputy Commissioner Sharon Kellner-Chille’s house.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck said Zlotnick didn't know what she was talking about and said there were reasons that Young was getting assessments lowered en masse. 

When she testified, Zlotnick said Popolizio "coached" Young about what property owners to approach about reducing their assessments.  Later, McCarthy accused Zlotnick of "making speeches" and said she agreed to have the usually closed-door meeting in public so she could make more accusations, calling into question her qualifications to make them.

One of the city’s charges against Zlotnick is that the claims she made to the media were “without regard for the truthfulness of her allegations” and were made out of spite.

At this point, both sides of the issue are waiting on Hearing Officer Christopher Nicolino to render his decision. It was supposed to come Nov. 23, but as Nicolino lives on Long Island, Superstorm Sandy may have delayed the decision.  

Friday, November 16

Sorry, but the only person who did anything wrong was the perpetrator.

"I apologize that we couldn't give out more information. I apologize for what this turned into. I don't think there is a reason to apologize for the whole incident."

That was Christian Mathiesen's response when I asked him yesterday about an apology he says was issued when he was talking to the creators of an online petition at a City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The petition demands more information about why police didn't issue a press release or a statement after a woman reported being raped on the street near the intersection of East Avenue in Lincoln Avenue Sept. 1. At this point it has about 320 signatures, but every day I check it there are more.

Wednesday, Robin Dalton, one of the organizers of the petition went to the council meeting with a prepared statement.

“We are very pleased by Chief Cole’s remarks yesterday and would like to thank the police department for taking our concerns seriously,” she said. “We remain concerned, however, that Commissioner Mathiesen’s language seems to focus on asking women not to put themselves into dangerous situations.”

Mathiesen, in the wake of the attack, repeated something he keeps bringing it up: “Walking alone on a street at that time of night may not be advisable for a woman who is alone,” he said.

She said “Our purpose is about notifying the public to a public safety issue, not to place blame blaming the victim who he feels put herself at risk.”

Dalton said she was "surprised" by Mathiesen's response (the full webcast of which can be seen here. It's in the first portion of the meeting that included public comment), and "it was my understanding that the public remarks period isn't typically the venue in which city council members are supposed to be questioning you about statements you might make."

Mathiesen was noticeably upset when I asked him about the exchange between he and Dalton, and probably with good reason: Public Safety hasn't had the best week.

I won't rehash all of the details of the three police officers suspended after allegedly assaulting a man at Dango's late Sunday night (technically Monday morning), and I won't bother going into all of the details of the withholding of information about a Sept. 1 rape on a city street — because a national online publication already did.  Now be aware that Jezebel is in the Gawker family and news is melded together with editorial comments and coarse language. 

Mathiesen maintains the information was withheld for a reason, but said most of the reasons will likely never be made public.

Sources say the circumstances of the attack are vague, at best, and Mathiesen said at this point police can't say it was a rape for sure.

Mathiesen pointed to last year's yet-unsolved rapes and other incidents on city streets and said the public was notified about those incidents.

"This was different," he said. "There were complex issues that made it more difficult to determine (whether to send out a notice)."

In his exchange with Dalton Wednesday, Mathiesen said “We apologized to the public for not being able to notify them." Neither Dalton, nor I, knew that an apology had been issued so I called him Thursday night to clarify.

His response was the quote I began this blog post with ("I apologize that we couldn't give out more information. I apologize for what this turned into. I don't think there is a reason to apologize for the whole incident.")

He said that after he asked me if he had to "issue an official apology," and then insisted that "There is nothing to apologize for. No one did anything wrong here but the perpetrator."

Mathiesen also questioned The Saratogian's article, which in print was headlined: "Police: Rape information withheld.

"The newspaper article I thought was inflammatory and I thought was incomplete," he said. A letter to the editor from Mathiesen about that story is slated to run in Sunday's Saratogian.

At Wednesday's meeting, Mathiesen said Dalton and the other organizers of the petition should have come to him before coming out with this petition.

"Rather than react to a newspaper article it would make more sense to contact us first," Mathiesen said.

"I have an office, I have a phone there," he said. "Nobody came to my office in September. Nobody came to my office in October."

He then said he was trying to contact organizers of the petition, to which Dalton responded "No one has received a call from you."

In his conversation with me Thursday, Mathiesen was even more agitated (all becasue of my "misinformation," I'm sure).

He said there are "no ulterior motives" and said the decision not to issue a statement about the reported rape in September had nothing to do with it being track season or a desire to cover the crime up, something he said to Dalton as well. Like her, I had to point out that I never said either of those things were true and I don't believe they are. 

I did say I believe the public has gotten a mixed message between Chief Chris Cole's statement that “In retrospect, it may have been appropriate to release a general statement regarding the incident," and Mathiesen's insistence that "the only person who did anything wrong is the perpetrator."

When I said that, Mathiesen latched onto the "may" in Cole's statement and emphasized it. When Dalton asked if he agreed with Cole, he hesitantly said "Yea... Yea but nobody is guilty here except the perpetrator."

He said to me and has said before that since there "hasn't been any subsequent rapes" the department "may have been right," not to send out a press release.

In the end, he said "I wish I could tell more, but I can't. I'm asking the community to trust me when I tell them this was done with the best of intentions and this was done with the safety of the city in mind."

Wednesday, November 7

Like the day after Christmas...

The season is over, but there you still have to clean up the wrapping paper and find places for your new stuff. Eventually we'll take the signs down and throw all of the campaign fliers away.

Tomorrow, the county starts their canvassing of voting machines. They'll compare the unofficial results to the receipts from the voting machines and likely adjust the numbers up and down.

I'm planning on hanging out with them while they canvass the machines, so I'll be reporting what the numbers look like in each town in the county and how they compare.

I'm particularly interested in the difference between the number of voters who weighed in on the presidential race in the city and the number of people who voted for and against charter change.

Looking at the rough figures at the Republican HQ last night in the Holiday Inn, it looked like the difference was a little more than 2,000 voters. It remains to be seen whether the difference was because the proposition was on the back of the ballot or because those people didn't care/know enough to want to vote on it, but I'm sure there is a combination of the two.

We're also looking at how voting went this year at the polls. Did poll workers tell you there was a proposition on the back? Did they hover too close? Did they take your ballot out of the envelope to feed it into the machine? I've heard anecdotes about all of these things and more.

Check out the claim from Wendy Long (Republican candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's seat who lost pretty handily)  who says she was encouraged to vote Dem:
"This morning when I went to vote, a poll worker who was at the scanner, studied my private ballot and proceeded to tell me that it was rejected because I did not 'fill in every space.' She then proceeded to indicate that I should mark the Democratic line all the way down.
The poll worker said, 'you have to fill in all of THESE, all the way down," indicating the whole line at the far left of the ballot, saying 'you can't leave any blank.'"
I said, "I'm sorry, but that just can't be the case .... that would force me to vote for people I don't want to vote for."  She insisted again, that every office had to be filled out or the ballot would be rejected. And I said again "I don't want to vote for those people!"
I protested again and said that I wanted to feed my ballot into the scanner as I had filled it out. She eventually relented  saying 'well you can TRY it'  -- meaning she would allow me to put it in the scanner.
It obviously worked...
Anyway, if you had crazy polling site story, let us know. E-mail me at, call me at 584-4242 ext. 221 or comment below.

In the meantime, canvassing begins at 10 a.m. and I'll be tweeting, so tune in.

In semi-related news, the campaign season is over and I can get to that list of things I've been looking to cover/investigate/write about. If you have any suggestions for issues/topics you'd like looked into feel free to e-mail me at or comment below. I can't promise I'll write about everything, but all (serious) suggestions will be considered and looked into.

Tuesday, November 6

Election Night Live Blog 11.6.12

12:35 a.m.
Just figured I'd sign off tonight with the speech Pat Kane prepared conceding Saratoga Citizen charter change effort.

Folks, the votes are in. While we garnered a lot of support across the city, in all of the voting districts, we did not prevail. After all the debate and discussion, the voters of Saratoga Springs have decided that they prefer the current commission form of government over that which we proposed. The people have spoken. We must respect the outcome.

For many of us, defeat stings. We can acknowledge our disappointment. We can wish that the outcome were different. But, tomorrow, we must wake up and move on.

Tonight, however, let’s take a moment to reflect upon our efforts and take some solace in what we did accomplish.

·         We took the issue of charter reform to a whole new level of research, debate, and understanding. The issue of charter reform is not over in this city and the work that we have done will not be forgotten. It will impact future changes to the charter. We have educated many voters on the issues that the city faces. That education will not be lost. The enhanced level of understanding will persist.
·         We have demonstrated that a group of citizens can band together to petition their government for change. Despite efforts to dampen our voices, in the end we were heard and the process worked through to its conclusion. Despite our loss, it was a good night for democracy. I hope that we have paved the way a bit for future initiative petitions.

Tonight, I congratulate our opponents for their victory. Their views have prevailed. In a democratic society, we must all respect, and honor, the will of the majority. That is why we are proud to be Americans living in a free country.

Most of all, I want to thank all those that gave of their time, their money, and their heart. So many of you gave so much. Be proud of your efforts and the commitment to your civic duty. You waged a noble campaign. You did it in a professional and respectful way. There is much for which to be proud. It has been my honor and privilege to work with all of you.

Tomorrow, the sun will come up. Our families and friends will welcome us back from the long campaign. We can rest a little and catch our breath. But, some chores postponed await the time we now have. And, we can, and will, get back up and work for those ideals in which we believe. We live in a great country, a great state, and a great city. Our civic pride and our civic duty will lead us to new challenges. Go forth with a warm heart.

Thank you again, to all of you. Goodnight.
And with that, I'll say goodnight as well. 

10:56 p.m.
We are now answering the office phone "Thank you for calling the Saratogian, the measure has failed" to head off at the pass the voters wondering if charter change passed or failed.

10:52 p.m.
Saratoga Springs voters have rejected charter change, yet again. Numbers are not yet official but looks like it will break down about 60-40.

10:35 p.m.
We still don't have official results on Saratoga Springs charter change proposal. If you're thinking of calling our office to ask, that's your answer. (Four calls so far and counting...)

10:34 p.m.
With 29% of Saratoga County machines reporting -- remember, the district includes Washington, Rensselaer and Columbia counties --

Marchione is beating Robin Andrews 6,117 to 3,482.
Roy McDonald, who stopped campaigning after losing the GOP primary, has 2,738 votes.

10:26 p.m.
With 37% of machines reporting in his district, Sen. Hugh Farley is winning his 18th (!) term handily against challenger Madelyn Thorner: 9,395 to 5,822.

10:13 p.m.

At the Inn at Saratoga, Carrie Woerner, Democratic candidate for the 113th State Assembly district, hasn’t yet arrived but the mood is high as the national numbers come in.

“It’s looking good for us!” shouted a man over the crowd.
According to the Saratoga County Board of Elections, Jordan is ahead in Saratoga County with 17% of precincts reporting. He's ahead 3,228 to Woerner's 2,659. The district includes a big section of Washington County where Jordan is also ahead, 51.6% to 48.3%

10:08 p.m.
With 40% of the vote counted, Wilton voters are overwhelmingly approving a proposition that would allow Wilton Emergency Squad members to continue to accrue years of service after they start collecting pensions at 65.
The vote was 1,862 for to 708 against.
At present, members who start receiving payments under the Service Award Program at 65 cannot add to their service years.

The change, if approved, would encourage older members to stay active in the squad.

“That’s the objective,” town Comptroller Jeff Reale said. “Volunteers are hard to come by. It’s an incentive.”

10:01 p.m.
Still no Board of Elections results from Saratoga Springs... let the frantic refreshing continue.
But, at the Holiday Inn GOP HQ, pollsters are reporting that charter reform is losing 3612 to 2808.

9:49 p.m. Saratoga Dems celebrate national results
As national results begin to come in, Jennie Grey reports that lively Democrats at the Inn at Saratoga have stood a cardboard cutout of President Obama beside their podium. Wild cheers as tallies come in.

9:42 p.m.
Despite no official results from the county Board of Elections, Lucian McCarty reports that the mood at the Saratoga Citizen headquarters has become grim. 

9:38 p.m.

Caitlin Morris talked to Mayor Scott Johnson at the Holiday Inn. On charter reform he said the proposal on today's ballot came up short: "I think it will not prevail — citizens want to have input on how to fine tune our government."
"I do recognize there are people in our community who feel we can do better, which is why I am creating a charter committee." Johnson's committee will have 15 members, the maximum number allowed under New York law, the member names have not been finalized yet but he said it is a broad spectrum of community leaders and people from City Hall.  The committee's goal will be to improve the efficiency of the city's current charter. That, of course, is contingent on the measure failing today.

9:27 p.m. GOP party upbeat

Former City Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth, Former Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, Mayor Scott Johnson and Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco are hob-nobbing at the Holiday Inn…. It’s an upbeat atmosphere here at GOP headquarters with 2 Senate races and 3 assembly races expected to be in the bag, Paul Post reports.

9:24 p.m. City Dem Joanne Yepsen

Yepsen, one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors, talked to Jennie Grey at the Inn at Saratoga where city and county Democrats are gathering this Election Night:
“It’s exciting to have so much election energy here and throughout the country. I’ve been worried that people wouldn’t turn out to vote because they were disgusted at the state of the country, but they have. I’m glad they’ve come out to vote for their future.
Because this year, besides the presidential election, we have races for the U.S. Senate and House, as well as local races, and the results are going to affect everyone’s lives significantly.
I regret only that I can’t be with United States Senator for New York Kristin Gillibrand tonight—she’s in New York City. We’ve been friends since 2005 when we both ran for office. She was my inspiration to enter the race. The Democrats have come together locally as well as nationally to support our values and principles, voting against tax increases and serving the taxpayers well. I’m proud of our record."

It’s so LOUD in here! I miss the Sports guys.
9:17 p.m. Sen. Hugh Farley at GOP HQ

Caitlin Morris asked Farley what his rebuttal was to challenger Madelyn Thorne saying his time has come and gone. "I love my job, I'm effective at what I do, I work hard, I'm in good health and I have reached a capstone in my career where I can do more for my district than ever before," Farley said. 
9:07 p.m. Looking for national results?
We've got another live blog for that:

9:05 p.m. Skidmore hosts Election Night event

8:59 p.m. Polls are about to school...
and Saratoga Citizen organizers have put a "yes wins" speech/press release and a "yes loses" one. They're very organized organizers. Also, the libations have come out at Saratoga Citizen HQ. "We did all we could do" says one organizer.

8:54 p.m. From the GOP party...

8:40 p.m. All quite at the Saratoga Citizen party
Lucian McCarty is at Saratoga Citizen organizer Pat Kane's house where supporters of changing Saratoga Springs' city charter are anxiously awaiting the results of today's election. Kane is handing out "vote yes" stickers to supporters and "just think positive" just rang out from the Kane's kitchen.
Brent Wilkes, a fellow Saratoga Citizen organizer, said he's anxious, "it's all the waiting."
Polls close at 9 p.m. ... stay tuned. 

6:40 p.m. Impound Order in the 21st Congressional District
From Caitlin Morris:
The race to represent an enormous swath of northern New York in U.S. Congress is expected to be extremely close and the incumbent's campaign has already filed an order to impound all ballots cast in the race.
Democratic incumbent Bill Owens hopes to fend off a challenge from Republican hopeful Matthew Doheny tonight for the 21st Congressional District.
The new 21st Congressional District includes the Saratoga County towns of Day, Hadley, Edinburg, Providence, Galway, Milton, Greenfield, Corinth, Moreau, Northumberland, Wilton and parts of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga and Stillwater. The district includes all or part of 11 counties and extends as far north and west as the Canadian border.
A poll released last week showed the two candidates were neck-and-neck; it is likely that no clear winner will emerge tonight. 
Owen’s spokesperson, Jon Boughtin, said Owen’s campaign filed for an impound order about a week ago, which State Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin signed it into effect on Monday.  The order requires the 12 county election commissioners to secure all the ballots from the 21st Congressional District and appear in Albany on Friday.
"It’s a standard practice these days," Boughtin said.
This is the second time in two years Doheny has challenged Owens for his seat in Congress.
Owens, 63, resides in Plattsburgh where he practiced law for 30 years and became a managing partner at the law firm. The incumbent has spent almost three years in Congress and was elected in 2009 to fill John McHugh’s seat when he was named Secretary of the Army. Doheny, 42, resides in Watertown and started North Country Capital in 2010, which lends money to start-ups, invests in business expansions and assists businesses in distress.

6:30 p.m. Photos from Ed Burke and Erica Miller of Saratoga County voters in action today:

6:20 p.m. Live from the polls
Paul Post has talked to lots of people out voting tonight, here's some of what he's heard in and around Saratoga Springs:
  • At the Lincoln Baths, where there is a steady stream of people coming in to vote, an election worker said she is making a point to remind people to turn their ballots over (the charter change proposal is on the back).
  • Also at the Lincoln Baths, Frederick Gergits, a 17-year-old Saratoga Springs High School student said he was disappointed he couldn't vote this year and has to wait four more years to vote for president. "It's kind of a big deal to determine what's going to go on with the economy," he said. His mother, Nancy, said she preferred the old lever voting machines to the new Scantron-style voting. "You really felt like it registered" when you pulled the lever, she said. Willy, Frederick's brother, said filling in the bubbles "felt like an SAT."
  • GOP election inspector Stan Drosky said turnout in Saratoga Springs has been heavy all day with only one minor problem with a machine that was easily resolved. He predicts we won't know the results of the presidential race for at least a day or two.
  • Cecile Gutchell said her parents came to the U.S. from Canada and impressed upon her the importance of voting, telling her it was her responsibility. Her first presidential vote was in 1954 (she voted for Ike) and her future husband Gary Gutchell voted for Adlai Stephenson. "My family was very serious about voting, too," she said.
  • At the Saratoga Springs High School, Stacey Turner said she felt Hurricane Sandy was overshadowing the election. "People still don't know where to vote," she said.
  • An inspector at the high school said at 30 people had to re-do their ballots today because they put an "X" on their preferred candidates rather than filling into the ballot. Everyone did it hhe said, "nobody walked out."
  • The same inspector said several people forgot to turn their ballots over to vote on the charter change proposition.
  • At the high school, "There were a lot of first-time voters. That's good to see," the inspector said. 
  • "I'm surprised at how many people can't read, we had to help them," the inspector said.
  • Some people displaced by Hurricane Sandy who are staying locally also voted at the high school with affidavits signed by a judge.

6:10 p.m. Election Night is finally upon us! 
The end is in sight for political lawn signs and TV ads, robocalls and annoying posts on Facebook. Whether the election goes the way you want it to or not, that is something to celebrate.

Before the celebrating begins, though, we'll be reporting results and reaction live right here. Reporter Caitlin Morris will be heading to the Holiday Inn in a couple hours to see what the Republicans are up to, while reporter Jennie Grey is across the street at the Inn at Saratoga with the Democrats. Reporter Lucian McCarty -- who is typically the voice behind this blog -- will be checking in with both Saratoga Citizen and SUCESS, the pro- and anti-charter change groups. Reporter Paul Post is checking out several polling places throughout Saratoga County before he joins Caitlin at the Holiday Inn.

I'll be in the office tonight compiling their dispatches for this live blog. If you've got questions feel free to leave them in the comments or email

So far voting seems to be going pretty well throughout Saratoga County, the only complaints we heard were about paving on the Avenue of the Pines that made it difficult for some voters to get to the Lincoln Baths, a major Saratoga Springs polling place. Also, heard a few people say their poll workers got a bit  too close for comfort when they were inserting their ballots into the machine that reads them -- those voters felt uncomfortable that the poll workers could see how they voted. Anyone else experience this?

At my polling place -- the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church on Circular Street -- there was a bit of a kerfuffle this morning when one of my fellow voters became irate about the lack of stickers. Seems like that was going around today. If you didn't get a sticker, here's a link for you.

-- Emily