SARATOGA COUNTY — A deeply divided Saratoga County Board of Supervisors failed to convene a special meeting on Friday, meaning a split over how to deal with the county’s response to the novel coronavirus emergency will continue until at least Tuesday.
With an order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prohibiting public gatherings, the board attempted to meet by telephone conference Friday afternoon, but about 10 supervisors representing large-population towns defeated the motion to convene the special meeting, and it was immediately adjourned.
That means supervisors will apparently need to hold their regular meeting this coming Tuesday, which is normally held in-person at the county board meeting rooms in Ballston Spa on the third Tuesday of each month.
The conference call involving the 23 board members was marred by heavy feedback in the sound system throughout an 11-minute meeting, but one supervisor who voted against convening the special meeting noted that the rules governing special meetings prohibit topics not on the meeting agenda from being brought up, as they can be at a regular meeting.
“I voted against ratifying the meeting, and appreciate my colleagues that voted with me for endorsing a return of full and open county meetings and government,” Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston wrote on Facebook. “Nothing in the notice of today’s meeting — all we would be able to discuss — was so timely that it needed to be done today and not Tuesday, although it would not allow full discussion by Supervisors. I look forward to Tuesday’s meeting so that the Board can properly take the reins of Saratoga County government and move forward in the face of this pandemic and the recovery from it.”
The group of large-population town supervisors led by Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett wants to debate the county’s extra compensation promises to the roughly 25 percent of the county workforce that is continuing to report to workplaces during the state of emergency, and revisit the board’s March 17 decision to let a special committee determine week-by-week whether those employees should be paid time-and-a-half as emergency pay.
After a public outcry, that decision to award extra pay was reversed for most employees by the special committee about two weeks later. Most of those who thought they were promised pay and then didn’t receive it were union members. Members of the Civil Service Employees Association has subsequently agreed to accept additional personal time in lieu of extra pay for its essetial workers, but agreements have yet to be reached with the unions representing law enforcement officers and corrections officers at the county jail.
Barrett did not return phone calls after the meeting on Friday. The supervisors who have generally sided with him are from Ballston, Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Malta, Milton, Moreau, Wilton and Saratoga Springs, and between them have enough votes to have their way at the county level.
The agenda for Friday’s meeting included a resolution to suspend the need for Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, a retroactive agreement for 2019 with the corrections’ officers union, and appointment of a new committee of supervisors to develop a plan for preparing the county for revenue losses and higher costs being caused by its response to the pandemic.
“Obviously the group that voted no had some kind of agenda,” said Charlton Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, who is chairman of the county Public Works Committee and was to be appointed to the new committee.