SARATOGA SPRINGS — The seating of a city lawyer took another unconventional turn when new Mayor Ron Kim appointed Tony Izzo as the interim city attorney during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Kim, who took office last month, not only relieved Izzo of his part-time duties, but also chose not to retain full-time city attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.
Kim had cited a desire to rein in the city’s legal costs as his reason for ousting the duo.
However, after the person he originally sought to appoint as city attorney backed out of contention last month, Kim reposted the job as a part-time, 30-hour-per-week position that would pay $95,000 to $105,000 annually.
“As we continue our search for a city attorney,” Kim told the council, “Tony Izzo has graciously agreed to step in as an interim city attorney.”
Izzo noted that Friday will mark the 36th anniversary of his first appointment as a city attorney.
After the meeting, Izzo told the Daily Gazette he submitted his resume to Kim when the job was advertised. Izzo said he and Kim had a “nice conversation” that led to a six-month job offer.
“He still has an interest in reviewing how legal services are provided to the city, and maybe reconfiguring and revising things,” Izzo said. “I’m kind of a placeholder until he does that — and I’m very honored to do that.”
The agreement calls for Izzo to work 20 to 29 hours for $1,800 per week.
Kim, a consumer protection attorney who won November’s mayoral race, has doubled as the city attorney and mayor and has caught flack for it.
City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait issued a written rebuke of Kim stating he could not play city attorney and mayor simultaneously, in a strongly-worded Jan. 24 letter.
Wait suggested that Kim should face consequences for making “misrepresentations” and inappropriate contact with an investor, Jeffrey Dumont of Greenfield Center, who was trying to resolve a code violation for conducting work without a building permit on a vacant investment property.
The matter prompted attorney Michael Brandi, former city Democratic Committee Chair Jane Weihe and political blogger John Kaufmann to file a complaint against Kim with a state Supreme Court attorney grievance committee, alleging the mayor’s actions in that case were inappropriate and reckless.
“This issue goes beyond the hiring of a City Attorney,” the trio said in a statement. “We want Mayor Kim and the city to succeed. Unfortunately, he is not going to succeed unless he can exercise his stewardship of the city with greater prudence and restraint. That would begin with his acknowledgement of the problems he created for himself and the city in his handling of the events of January 20, 2022.”
Kim has said their complaint was politically motivated and he expressed confidence in his appeal of the judge’s decision.
In other business, the council approved a resolution for Kim to ask the governor to request that the state Attorney General’s office convene a noncriminal grand jury investigation into the city police department’s actions relative to the 2014 death of Darryl Mount Jr.
That action was at the request of Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino, who also announced that his report on the Mount case was posted on the city’s website.
In a case that has spurred protests by members of the Black Lives Matter community, the biracial Mount suffered injuries that led to his death after he spent nine months in a coma before passing away.
Investigators said Mount fell from scaffolding in an alleyway in August 2013. However, his family and members of the Black Lives Matter community contend Mount’s injuries were consistent with a beating.
While Montagnino concluded that there was no wrongdoing by responding officers, the commissioner reported a failure of leadership in the aftermath that gave the public the impression or allowed people to draw the inference that somebody was trying to hide something.
Kim — who filed with the clerk’s office a petition that he said was signed by about 60 city residents asking the council to compel an impartial investigation into the injuries suffered by Mount — thanked Montagnino for his time preparing the report.
“The wading through reams of depositions, transcripts and exhibits and the like can be very tedious business,” Kim said, adding that Montagnino’s report was thorough and grounded in fact.
Montagnino’s request of the governor “mirrors” one that he made last month to Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen, who declined his request for her office to convene a grand jury investigation into the Mount’s death.
In another matter, Skidmore College students Maria Bideiwy and Olivia Kupiec delivered a presentation about participatory budgeting, a five-stage democratic process that not only allows a community’s residents to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, but also gives them power to make decisions about how money is spent in their community.
Afterward, Commissioner of Finance Minita Sanghvi, who is also an associate professor of marketing at the college, said her administration is exploring an enactment of participatory budgeting as a means of creating greater civic engagement and inclusivity in Saratoga Springs.
Though the concept is not finalized, Sanghvi said it would involve less than half a percent of the city’s budget.
“It will be meaningful to get the process started and create more civic engagement and transparency,” she said.
In other business, at the request of Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran, the council lifted a mandate for city employees and visitors to wear masks in City Hall.
The resolution noted that the Saratoga County Public Health Department confirmed that the county is now experiencing a significant decrease in the level of COVID-19 transmission, and Gov. Kathy Hochul eliminated the mandate for wearing face masks in public places and businesses.
Moran said the city still encourages employees to wear masks at work and it would provide masks to its workers, if requested.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.