Saratoga Springs mayor unveils plan to save money on legal services

011922_WEB_DG_Spa_City_legal_services.jpeg
PHOTOGRAPHER:

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Three weeks into his role, Mayor Ron Kim said the city is in search of an attorney.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Kim unveiled a reorganization plan for legal services that he said will save the city up to $70,000 a year without compromising the quality of its services.

The city’s prior administration ran the city with a full-time city attorney and a part-time assistant attorney. 

Kim said his appointee would work an average of 30 hours per week, and be paid an annual salary ranging from $95,000 to $100,000, which he said would put the Spa City in line with other similarly-sized communities.

Kim had been poised to appoint Elizabeth Fairbanks-Fletcher of Greenfield to the position, for a base yearly salary of $97,000. But Fairbanks-Fletcher withdrew from consideration, Kim said after the meeting. 

The city attorney provides legal services and advice to the council, mayor, commissioners, and city departments. The job also calls for the appointee to attend regularly scheduled council meetings and other meetings, and serve as the chief information officer for Freedom of Information Law requests. 

Kim, a consumer protection lawyer whose deputy mayor, Angela Rella, is also an attorney, said he wants to make the hire in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Kim said he and his deputy will handle requests for legal services.

Kim said the city spent a combined $264,000 last year on in-house and outside counsel.

The city attorney and assistant attorney made a combined $178,000 last year, and the city spent $86,000 on outside counsel.

The city budgeted about $100,000 for outside counsel in 2022.

By comparison, Jamestown — a city in western New York that is similar in size to Saratoga Springs — spent about $132,000 for in-house lawyers last year, Kim said.

Kim said he’s also calling to increase transparency by asking that Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi provide easy access on an ongoing basis of what the city spends on outside counsel throughout the city’s various departments.

Right now, according to Kim, the ongoing expense of lawyers is hard to follow, unless one knows the various line items within city departments. He said it took his new administration four days to unravel the actual costs.

Kim also cited five former mayors who ran the city with a part-time attorney.

John Kaufmann — who has been critical of Kim’s reorganization plan on his blog, Saratoga Springs Politics — questioned Kim about whether he could actually appoint a lawyer who didn’t reside in the city, among other concerns. 

Kim said he was on solid ground in his belief that he can appoint a city attorney who does not reside within city limits. 

To support his argument, the mayor cited a case in Mechanicsville and its appointment of a nonresident into the role. Kim said there were also several opinions by the state Office of the Attorney General that indicate a city or village attorney is not a public officer in the way a county district attorney is. 

But Kaufmann has stated he has spoken to a number of attorneys who have extensive knowledge of municipal law, and he said every one of them was unequivocal that the city attorney is a public officer.

Address delayed

In other business, the council approved a resolution for Kim to delay his state of the city address — normally presented before the first regularly scheduled meeting in February — until on or before March 19. He said the delay was in the interest of limiting public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Also, the council passed a resolution presented by Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran that requires all city employees to wear KN95 and N95 face masks, which are considered by medical experts to be the best protection against the coronavirus when it comes to face coverings.

Moran said the measure goes a step further than the previous council’s resolution on Aug. 17 that requires all employees and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a facemask when entering city buildings. The city doesn’t have the right to mandate members of the public wear a specific style of facemask, Moran said.

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

Categories: News, Saratoga County

0 Comments

No Comment.