Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates: Robin Dalton

Saratoga Springs Independent mayoral candidate Robin Dalton
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Saratoga Springs Independent mayoral candidate Robin Dalton

Two weeks before Robin Dalton, the Saratoga Springs public safety commissioner, announced on April 14 her candidacy for mayor, she filed for bankruptcy protection under her birth name, Robin Lakian.

The bankruptcy petition, filed April 1, 2021, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of New York, outlined $172,000 she owed the Internal Revenue Service for “taxes and certain other debts” owed to the federal government. 

When asked about the bankruptcy petition on Thursday, Dalton denied that such a filing existed: “I’ve literally never filed for bankruptcy,” she said. “I have no idea what you are talking about… I think I would know if I filed for bankruptcy.”

But the 44-page bankruptcy petition lists Dalton’s home address on Caroline Street, lists her employment as “Public Safety” with the City of Saratoga Springs, details how many dependent children she has and specifies the type of car she drives. The document filed in Lakian’s name is labeled: “Official Form 101: Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy.”

A court administrator with the U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of New York on Friday confirmed that Robin Lakian filed a bankruptcy petition on April 1 and that the case is still active. Dalton’s own lawyer on Friday night acknowledged that she had filed a petition for bankruptcy. The case was assigned to federal Judge Robert E. Littlefield.

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates all carry baggage:

The bankruptcy petition does not list any creditors with debts against Dalton besides the IRS, but she has sought to consolidate her bankruptcy case with an ongoing bankruptcy proceeding under her husband’s name, Matthew Dalton, who filed his own petition in February 2020.

Robin Dalton on Friday said that after talking to her husband and their attorney and accountant she determined that her name “was attached to it (her husband’s filing) simply because that was the advice of legal counsel” and said it was related to one of his businesses. But she continued to deny she had filed her own separate petition for bankruptcy.

In a statement provided through Robin Dalton, Matthew Dalton said that his Chapter 13 filing related to a business that he owned, working directly with a Chinese factory.

“There was a dispute regarding tariff obligations and IP rights which resulted in the dissolution of the relationship,” Matthew Dalton said in the statement. “My primary business remains intact and thriving.”

The two bankruptcy cases each carry their own case number and contain separate court dockets. Robin and Matthew Dalton’s attorney on May 26 did seek a motion to consolidate the two cases, noting “the debt is the same,” but that motion was ultimately denied by the judge in an Aug. 12 order; the judge did allow the cases to be jointly administered going forward, according to court records.

Mike Toomey, a Glens Falls-based attorney representing both Robin and Matthew Dalton in their bankruptcy proceedings, on Friday evening confirmed that Robin Dalton filed her own bankruptcy petition sometime after her husband had filed his. Toomey said they had initially thought Robin Dalton would not need to file for bankruptcy but ultimately decided it was best to do so.

“Initially we wanted to protect Matt’s assets… he initially filed, and we didn’t think it would be necessary for Robin to file,” Toomey said. “(Eventually) it made sense for her to file.”

Toomey said the bankruptcy trustee objected to consolidating the cases into a single joint case but that the judge did allow the case to be administered jointly, which means the couple will make just one monthly payment as part of a plan to pay down their debts. 

Dalton, as Robin Lakian, on April 1 filed the petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a form of bankruptcy that enables individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts over usually three or five years. Chapter 13 plans give debtors a chance to save their home from foreclosure and reduce or discharge some debts. 

Dalton on Friday criticized the Daily Gazette for pursuing a story about her personal financial situation, arguing focus should be given to other issues facing the city.

“There are so many issues facing the city right now, hopefully at some point you’ll decide they’re more worth your while then trying to embarrass candidates family’s (sic) and reputations,” she said in a written message.

Lakian had not filed a repayment plan in her case, but her lawyer said that was because the repayment plan confirmed under her husband’s case would satisfy the debts in both of their cases. Repayment plans, which must be filed early in the bankruptcy process, outline how much a debtor will pay each month to pay off the outstanding debts, payments that if not made on time could result in a case dismissal. If a case is dismissed, the debtor loses the legal protections provided under the bankruptcy process. 

The original petition under Lakian’s name also does not list “Robin Dalton” as another name she uses even though the second question on the bankruptcy petition asks the filer to list “all other names you have used in the last 8 years,” including “your married or maiden names.” 

Bankruptcy petitions require debtors to list their assets and liabilities: in Lakian’s case, she reported $4,300 in assets – mostly the value of a car and other miscellaneous items – and $172,873 in liabilities, entirely owed to the IRS. (Her husband also lists the IRS debt, which their lawyer said was the same debt.) She makes $14,500 annually working as public safety commissioner. She does not list the Caroline Street home as an asset, or the mortgage on the house as a debt; those are listed in her husband’s petition, valuing the house at $720,000, along with other debts.

Robin Dalton in 2019 was elected to serve as city public safety commissioner, and in April announced she planned to run for mayor as an independent on the new Saratoga Stronger Together ballot line. She has argued that her current experience in city government makes her the best qualified candidate to take over as mayor during the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Ron Kim, who is running for mayor as a Democrat and also works as a bankruptcy attorney (he is not involved in Robin or Matthew Dalton’s case), said he did not think that a bankruptcy petition should disqualify someone from public office and noted that he had represented public servants in the past. 

“Most people who come in are honest debtors,” he said, highlighting a longstanding tradition of bankruptcy in America. “Two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence did a form of bankruptcy.” 

He said most of the people he has worked on bankruptcy cases with are good people who ran into hard times and that the bankruptcy process exists for that reason.

“What I’ve seen is people confronted with difficult circumstances that had to make a difficult choice,” he said. “I understand the system is in place for people who have problems…. I wouldn’t criticize someone who has taken that step.”

He did say that he informs clients that bankruptcy proceedings are public documents and that if he were in the position of having recently filed for bankruptcy while running for mayor, he would let the public know. “Judge for yourself,” he said of a hypothetical disclosure. 

Heidi Owen West, a local business owner running as the Republican-endorsed candidate for mayor, said that she “has no desire to comment on a candidate’s personal matter,” but she did highlight the importance of “fiscal competency” when electing a mayor.

“When you’re responsible for helping craft a multi-million dollar budget using taxpayer dollars, you must do so wisely, responsibly, and honestly,” she said. “For over 30 years, I’ve balanced budgets, made payroll, paid my bills and taxes; I take it very seriously, and so should those who seek elected office.”

Chris Obstarczyk, chair of the Saratoga Springs Republican committee, went further and argued that the bankruptcy reflected financial management skills not suited to serving as mayor in Saratoga.

“If this is true, it seriously questions her ability to lead the city as mayor, especially during these challenging economic times, and it shows that Heidi (Owen West) is the only candidate with the financial competency to be mayor,” Obstarczyk said. 

Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates all carry baggage:

Categories: News, Saratoga County

Leave a Reply