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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, 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.  


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When this matter is finally resolved perhaps you could report on the then City Council adjourning into a illicit "executive" session in October 2011 - just before the election - to enter into a Health Department consent order resulting from the City's failure to pursue a supplemental water supply.

Of course, the Council did not want the order and a $25,000 fine to become public so it simply waited until the regular Council meeting was over at a late hour and the press was gone and then went into an secret session not on listed on the agenda. Yes, that Johnson guy is clever and sneaky.

The Council disguised the content in the meeting minutes and that was that. Or was it. We still do not know - because the press has not reported - on terms and conditions of the order, the ultimate cost to the taxpayers, etc.

Now, former Commissioner Ivins who was a member of that Council and a willing participant in the referenced secret session, publicly lectures the Housing Authority about its need to be open and transparent.

The Housing Authority is clearly wrong and its members should resign, but it is disingenuous and hypocritical for Ivins to play holier-than-thou here when he has so willing participated in like conduct while he was on the City Council.

Ivins' recent letter to the editor castigating the Authority was self-serving and politically motivated but it only served to define him a opportunist and panderer.

December 3, 2012 at 9:19 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a diuble standard here in City Hall.

While the pursuit of this matter may well be justified it is certainly no more so then, say, the City Attorney striking a member of the city council in the head with a bunch of layoff notices or another political appointee working a second job on city time.

Can you imagine how the political appointee would react to a subordinate working another job on City time?

How does the Council justify pursuing a clerk for "insubordination" and turning a blind eye to more egregious conduct on the part of others? Could this not have been resolved in a less costly way if the mayor's office had not created such a hostile work lace that the then Personnel Administrator resigned and was never replaced.

And what about the costs of Harris Beach - the law firm that paid a retained PLUS an hourly rate to go after this employee? How much has that cost so far?

Harris Beach enjoys very lucrative contracts awarded by the City Council and that is why the mayor has overspent his outside "counsel" budget each year. Why can the City Attorney not do this?

Many questions, no answers.

December 4, 2012 at 12:24 PM 

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