Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates: Ron Kim

Saratoga Springs Democratic mayoral candidate Ron Kim
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Saratoga Springs Democratic mayoral candidate Ron Kim

Saratoga Springs Democratic mayoral candidate Ron Kim has a still-unpaid $7,000 penalty for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance in 2016 and also accumulated at least three penalties in the past decade for late taxes, according to state officials and court records.

Kim, who faces a $7,000 court judgment dated Oct. 10, 2019, is currently carrying the proper insurance for his law practice but has still not resolved the outstanding penalty, Melissa Stewart, a spokesperson for the state Workers’ Compensation Board, said Thursday. 

Kim, who served as Saratoga public safety commissioner from 2006 to 2010, has said that he did not have any employees during that period of time and did not need to carry the insurance, and on Friday he said he was fighting the penalty. 

The workers’ compensation penalty stemmed from a period during 2016 when the state said Kim failed to carry needed workers’ compensation insurance from February to July. The state board in August 2019 issued a final notice to Kim to pay $7,000 in the matter, and a court judgment was filed in October 2019 declaring Kim had still not paid the penalty. 

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates all carry baggage:

Kim has also racked up around $3,000 in late tax penalties, which he has since made whole, according to court records. He was assessed a $1,000 penalty in December 2019 related to taxes for his law practice; he faced a June 2019 tax warrant for a $1,000 penalty stemming from 2018 taxes, which he satisfied in January 2020; he also faced a tax warrant in August 2019 totaling just over $600 stemming from 2015, which he satisfied in November 2019, according to records. 

His late payments pale in comparison to independent candidate Robin Dalton, the current public safety commissioner, who recently filed for Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy in the face of over $170,000 in IRS debt, according to court records. 

For his part, Kim explained the late payments as stemming from a period of time of unexpected financial strain after a fuel tank spilled in his basement, forcing him and his family to relocate as they absorbed the cost of cleanup while litigating for years who was responsible for the spill.

“We were under some extreme financial pressure at that time,” he said of the late tax payments. 

Kim said he has since satisfied the tax penalties and argued the presence of the late tax payments did not reflect poorly on his potential management as mayor. 

“It could reflect someone who went through difficult times when they had 250 gallons of oil spilled in their yard and were essentially out of their house for two-and-half years,” he said. “And nobody has those kinds of expenses in their budget.”

Kim was also sued in 2017 over what his landlord said were tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, ultimately settling for around $16,000. He said the claims of unpaid rent were frivolous and that he settled the suit at an amount he thought he should reasonably pay, far less than what the landlord originally demanded.  

“They said I owed them $100,000, and I absolutely did not owe them $100,000, so I did what everyone does, I fought,” Kim said. 

Kim said that after his lease expired with the landlord, he continued to pay rent at the same rate, payments he said the landlord accepted for years. He said after he decided to leave the property, a lawyer representing the landlord approached him and demanded more than $100,000 in back rent.

“We never renewed the lease, so I kept paying what I had already paid,” he said. “I continued to pay them and we never agreed to a lease, and they basically said, ‘Well, you owe us $100,000.’” 

When the landlord, The Dogs of Long Alley,  actually filed a complaint against Kim in September 2017, they alleged that he owed nearly $61,000. By February 2019, the parties had agreed to a settlement to end the case that required Kim to pay the landlord $16,000.

“I think there is a big difference between 16 and 60,” Kim said, pointing out that at some point it makes more sense to settle than continuing to pay lawyer’s fees. 

Chris Obstarcyzk, chair of the city Republican Committee, last week questioned the financial fitness of both Kim and Dalton, criticizing the late and unpaid taxes in their backgrounds. Obstarcyzk, also a lawyer, argued that Kim’s decision to settle the case should be seen as an acknowledgment that he owed unpaid rent to the landlord.  

“It is undisputed you have a documented pattern and history of neglecting to pay his taxes as a business owner and not paying his rent,” he said, arguing that Kim’s late tax payments and the lawsuit over rent payments reflected poorly on his ability to lead the city. “It’s obviously relevant because Saratoga Springs continues to recover from the pandemic and troubling economic times we faced, and our city needs someone who can navigate economic challenges.”

Heidi Owen West, who is running for mayor on the Republican line, said that she has “no desire to comment on a candidate’s personal matters while highlighting her own experience as a business owner. 

“Fiscal competency is critically important when electing a mayor,” West said. “The way I run my businesses and the success that I achieved is reflective of my personal and professional values and financial responsibility… As mayor of Saratoga Springs, I will bring that same level of professionalism and accountability to the office.”

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates all carry baggage:

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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