Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs ex-commissioner defends himself, retired top cop as targets in new Mount report

In this Oct. 22, 2020, photo, former Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen speaks during a press conference.
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In this Oct. 22, 2020, photo, former Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen speaks during a press conference.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A former Saratoga Springs public safety commissioner defended himself and retired Police Chief Greg Veitch as targets in new Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino’s report about their “failure in leadership” in the aftermath of a biracial man’s death in 2014 following a police foot pursuit.

Christian Mathiesen, who was the public safety commissioner in 2013, when Darryl Mount Jr. was critically injured as officers pursued him, said he welcomes a probe by the state Attorney General, as requested on Tuesday by a slate of four new members of the City Council.

Mathiesen said a state investigation would clear his name, and Veitch’s.

In a recent report about the matter, Montagnino singled out both Mathiesen’s and Veitch’s actions in the aftermath of the Aug. 31, 2013 police pursuit of Mount, who died in 2014 after nine months in a coma as a result of the incident.

Police observed Mount, who was on parole, push his girlfriend against a wall. They chased him and said he fell from scaffolding. Mount’s family and members of the Black Lives Matter community say officers beat him to his death.

Montagnino and Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen found no evidence officers beat Mount.

But Veitch admitted during a deposition that the police hadn’t conducted an internal affairs investigation, after indicating to a reporter for the Saratogian newspaper that he had.

Montagnino’s report said an internal investigation should have been conducted, and Mathiesen essentially bowed down to the chief instead of providing oversight of the department.

Mathiesen stepped to the microphone on three occasions during this week’s City Council meeting, including the public input portion of the meeting, and the continuation of a public hearing about a Civilian Review Board that drew sparse participation.

Mathieson said Montagnino’s claim of producing the first substantive report on the matter was simply untrue.

The former commissioner said a report was issued June 28, 2014, and it included a summary of the findings of a comprehensive investigation conducted by the police, based on volumes of supporting documents and videos.

The report remains on the city’s website, Mathieson said.

Reached after the meeting, Montagnino downplayed the report as “a one-page press release with 10 bullet points that were one sentence each.”

Mathieson also noted that the city’s liability insurance carrier investigated the matter and decided to defend the city in the Mount family’s civil lawsuit, rather than follow the usual course of action and settle the case. Mathieson said the city’s defense is based on volumes of information made available by the police’s comprehensive investigation.

Mathiesen accepted blame for leading the Saratogian reporter to believe police had conducted an “internal affairs investigation.” He said he used the wrong term when speaking to the reporter.

“It does not constitute deception on anyone’s part,” he said. “None of us ever deliberately deceived the public about the conclusions of the thorough investigation into what occurred on Aug. 31, 2013, between 3:02 and 3:08 a.m.”

Mathieson defended Veitch as “an honorable man who does not deserve to be made a scapegoat by Commissioner Montagnino.”

During the public hearing on who should be appointed and how they can be screened for the Civilian Review Board, Mathieson said he and Veitch looked into putting together a similar committee after the Mount incident.

At the time, he said he established a committee of people from various aspects of the city – including a student from Skidmore College, pastors from local churches, and a representative from Wellspring to contribute input “if we found ourselves in another situation that involved a lot of controversy.”

When Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi asked for the name of the advisory committee, Mathieson said there wasn’t one.

“We talked very frankly about what happened in 2013,” he said. “It was anticipated we would bring it back as needed, but we didn’t feel we needed it a lot.”

BLM supporter Angela Kaufman said Mathiesen’s remarks were an example of what she hopes the future Civilian Review Board will avoid. That is, “claiming that because they had a small group of people who could not identify a problem, the problem doesn’t exist.”

Meanwhile, Montagnino said it would take some time for a draft ordinance on the CRB to be created and circulated with an opportunity for the public to review it in time for another hearing.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-4109-9766.

Categories: Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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