SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mayor-elect Ron Kim is overhauling the city’s legal team, saying he won’t reappoint city attorney Vincent DeLeonardis and longtime assistant city attorney Tony Izzo, who hold a combined 40-plus years’ experience in City Hall.
In an interview Monday, Kim, in part, cited his dissatisfaction with DeLeonardis as lead attorney on the city council’s adoption of the police reform and reinvention collaborative earlier this year.
Kim said he didn’t agree with the advice DeLeonardis gave the city council.
Kim, a Democrat, won the three-person mayor’s race last month. He is set to take the helm as mayor on Jan. 1.
Kim declined to identify his replacements. He said he will make an announcement regarding the city attorney later this week, and he indicated a revised role for the assistant attorney that could “save the city money.”
DeLeonardis and Izzo could not be reached by phone, and they did not immediately respond to email messages Monday.
In June 2020, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in response to the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota, and protests that had taken place daily throughout the nation and in communities across New York regarding police-involved deaths and racially biased law enforcement.
Subsequently, the city council adopted a reform plan in March that, on the advice of DeLeonardis, deviated from a set of 50 recommendations handed up by a city task force.
Serving as a non-voting member of the panel at the time, DeLeonardis rejected claims the city had not followed the task force’s recommendations, asserting further evaluation was needed.
Cuomo’s executive order read that communities were charged with adopting plans that “shall be presented to the local legislative body in such political subdivision, which shall ratify or adopt such plan by local law or resolution, as appropriate, no later than April 1, 2021.”
“‘Shall’ is a very clear interpretation in the law,” said Kim, who’s also a lawyer. “It means you do it. And that was just a fundamental disagreement of two attorneys.”
He continued: “I read the executive order to say that you appoint these people, they do their research, they do their hearings, all of which they did — and then they make recommendations, and the City Council or the governing body shall” adopt the plan.
Kim added that it is “important that the mayor and city council have a city attorney giving honest, good, strong advice — but also sees the direction that they want to go.”
DeLeonardis was appointed city attorney on Oct. 1, 2014, following the resignation of former city attorney Sarah Burger.
At the time of DeLeonardis’ appointment, the University at Albany and Albany Law School graduate was a partner at Bailey, Kelleher, & Johnson, P.C. in Albany.
In 2018, DeLeonardis was elevated from part-time to full-time city attorney.
Meanwhile, the long-serving Izzo was saluted five years ago by then-Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who declared Feb. 17, 2016, Tony Izzo Day.
The proclamation cited Izzo’s “incredibly impressive and detailed knowledge of city government, city history, city events and City Hall that is useful to all departments and employees on a daily basis,” along with his “exceptional work ethic, incredible selflessness, natural kindness, abundant compassion, wonderful sense of humor and able storytelling.”
But in explaining why he didn’t want to reappoint Izzo, Kim said:
“What I heard on the campaign trail was, we need to do enforcement. That so often, developers came before the Planning Board or Land Use Board and said: ‘We’re going to do X, Y and Z. Don’t worry, we’ll mitigate the impacts on neighborhoods by doing A, B and C.’ And A, B and C never happens.”
“Tony’s a great resource for the city,” Kim acknowledged. “I just feel like we need more of a litigator there. Everybody has a different style, as attorneys. He’s a great counselor. He’s been great for the city. I think we’re redefining that role.”
The city attorney’s yearly salary is $141,890, while the assistant city attorney makes $60,000, according to budget records posted on the city website.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.