Saratoga Springs commissioner alleges mayor used city office to promote private school for which she works

An exterior view of Saratoga Springs City Hall is seen on Oct., 20, 2020.

An exterior view of Saratoga Springs City Hall is seen on Oct., 20, 2020.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A member of the City Council alleges the mayor used her office to unfairly plug the Charlton School, a private school in Burnt Hills for which the mayor reportedly works.

Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton accused Mayor Meg Kelly of soliciting a $200,000 donation for the school from a city employee who reports to her, as well as directing city internships to students of the private school.

According to a copy of a letter Dalton wrote to the city ethics committee on Nov. 10 asking the panel to weigh in on the allegations, Dalton said assistant city attorney Tony Izzo told her last month that he was approached by Kelly for a $200,000 gift to the Charlton School from a Foundation he sits on.

“I find it highly inappropriate that the Mayor would initiate any conversation regarding a gift for the Charlton School with any employee, especially one that reports to her directly,” Dalton wrote in the letter.

Ethics Board chairman Brendan Chudy said Thursday that the board had a meeting Wednesday night asking that “an inquiry” be addressed.

The board went into executive session for about 90 minutes to discuss the inquiry, and broke the session without making a decision on the matter.

Chudy said a special meeting was scheduled for next Wednesday to discuss the matter further.

Dalton said she had no comment about the complaint, beyond her letter.

Kelly and Izzo didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.

Charlton School Executive Director Alex Capo issued a statement Thursday that read:

“Mayor Kelly began working as a part time employee of The Charlton School on January 27, 2020 because she truly cared about our mission and work to support young women with diagnosed mental health conditions. She was also looking for employment to supplement her own income while in public service.”

“All of which has been public information and referenced in interviews with the press,” Cabo said. “As a part time member of our team, she worked as our Community Engagement Coordinator and helped us develop and implement a Career Development & Occupational Studies program at The Charlton School, creating several positive opportunities on and off campus for our students.”

“As residents of Saratoga County for more than a century, our school has participated in countless community engagement and service events for many years in Saratoga. All of our processes are well documented and the claims that have been made do not concern us,” the statement continued.

Both Dalton and Kelly are in the final weeks of their terms as commissioner and mayor, respectively. Neither official sought re-election last month.

Dalton said that Kelly and Capo, a mental health counselor, joined her on two Facebook Live events discussing mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Dalton said she discontinued having Kelly and Capo on the social media program, out of concern for being complicit with Kelly in promoting the school.

Dalton said her concerns resurfaced this winter, when she said Kelly told her she had accepted a job with the Charlton School and was working there part-time.

From that point on, Dalton said she noticed the Charlton School promoted through the mayor’s office in a way that Dalton found “ethically questionable.”

Dalton said she was “stunned” to read local press coverage of the mayor giving legislative artistic awards to Charlton School students for a Juneteenth celebration. Dalton questioned why students of the city public schools hadn’t been feted by the mayor.

Dalton went on to say that this past summer she encountered civil service coordinator Corissa Salvo giving a group of Charlton students a tour of City Hall as part of an internship program offered to them by the mayor.

“This opportunity was not publicized or known to the council that I am aware of, nor was the opportunity offered to anyone other than Charlton students,” Dalton wrote.

Dalton’s letter questions other activities by the mayor involving the Charlton School, a 126-year-old nonprofit residential treatment center and special education school for students in Grades 8-12. 

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: Saratoga County

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