Saratoga Springs

Saratoga’s Yepsen: I did know about charter meeting

'Normally there's coordination of schedules between the commissioners'
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen delivers her State of the City address in January.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen delivers her State of the City address in January.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mayor Joanne Yepsen knew about last Monday’s special City Council meeting, she said Friday, though she said no effort was made to coordinate it so she could be there.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and Accounts Commissioner John Franck produced emails dated Nov. 9 notifying all five council members and their deputies that Franck had called a special meeting for Monday — emails they said contradicted Yepsen’s contention that she didn’t know about the meeting.

Yepsen acknowledged Friday that she learned of the planned council meeting on Nov. 9, but she said it was posted on the city website by Franck’s office that afternoon before she knew about it. She said she first learned about it from a constituent who had seen it on the website, and then from a reporter.

“I was out of the office on Thursday [Nov. 9] and I got a message while driving, and I didn’t know anything about it,” Yepsen said. “I pulled off the road and called my staff, and they were in the dark about it.”

Normally, Yepsen said special meetings are scheduled by coordinating schedules among all five City Council members, and that didn’t happen. “It’s never been done this way before,” she said. “Normally there’s coordination of schedules between the commissioners.”

The charter does, however, allow for three commissioners to schedule a meeting, though it remains the mayor’s responsibility to send out the meeting agenda. Yepsen’s assistant, Lisa Shields, distributed the meeting agenda by email at 5:20 p.m. Nov. 9, about two hours after Yepsen said she learned of the meeting.

The special meeting was attended by Franck, Madigan and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, all opponents of the proposed charter change. Yepsen and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, both supporters of the charter change, didn’t attend.

The meeting was held Monday because the the Saratoga County Board of Elections was scheduled to start a count of absentee ballots in the charter referendum the next day. The referendum was ahead by 48 votes after Election Day, but trailed by 10 votes once absentees were counted. The results aren’t yet official, though — and some citizens are calling for a hand recount of the roughly 9,000 paper ballots counted by voting machines.

The three City Council members in attendance voted to hire Glens Falls law firm Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth to monitor Tuesday’s absentee count at the Saratoga County Board of Elections.

Yepsen said she couldn’t be there because she was at a conference in Albany. If she had been there, she said she would have opposed the hiring.

The proposed new charter would replace the current City Council of four elected department heads and the mayor with a seven-member council whose members would not also run city departments, with a city manager overseeing day-to-day operations of the city.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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