SARATOGA SPRINGS – Three Saratoga Springs City Council members called Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino’s complaint against a Black Lives Matter member racist during the council’s meeting Tuesday – a meeting BLM members disrupted as they called for time to voice their concerns.
During the meeting’s public comment session, BLM members began shouting at the council regarding not having their voices heard.
At least two police officers were present at one point during the meeting as people continued shouting.
These actions were reminiscent of BLM member Chandler Hickenbottom, Figuereo’s sister, refusing to concede the microphone during public comment period on Feb. 7, for which Montagnino filed a disorderly conduct complaint against her.
Montagnino’s decision to pursue criminal charges against Hickenbottom was later condemned as racist by Mayor Ron Kim, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran and Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi, who also said the action was sexist.
On Wednesday, Montagnino didn’t rule out filing any complaints against those who interrupted Tuesday’s meeting.
“Ahh, that’s a very good question,” he said Wednesday before deciding not to comment.
Kim said during Tuesday’s meeting that Montagnino’s actions – filing a complaint against Hickenbottom – were an “incredible mistake” that he believes will cost the city money, due to future legal repercussions.
“It’s not just the money, it’s the fact that it was, I believe, racist,” Kim said.
The statement caused more shouting from members of BLM toward Montagnino, with Figuereo, at one point, calling him a “fascist, racist pig.”
“Throw them some more red meat, Ron,” Montagnino said, in response to Kim’s comment and the shouting that followed.
Montagnino repeated his stance Wednesday that the decision to file the complaint was not due to Hickenbottom’s race or gender.
“Chandler Hickenbottom wasn’t charged because she’s Black and she wasn’t charged because she’s a woman,” he said. “She was charged because she disrupted a council meeting to the point where it actually had to be shut down. That’s unprecedented and it’s unacceptable.”
Montagnino also said Wednesday that Kim wasn’t doing his job as mayor adequately by continuing to appease BLM.
Kim said Wednesday he is the presiding officer of the meeting and the council was able to continue its meeting.
All of this comes as the council approved 4-0, with Montagnino abstaining, a resolution regarding whether council members would be indemnified if legal action was pursued against them. The resolution stems from a prior city council meeting during which Kim indicated he did not want to have taxpayer funds spent on legal fees if legal action was taken against Montagnino regarding the complaint.
BLM has indicated that it will file a federal lawsuit against the city regarding the city’s actions toward the local outfit of the organization, and that the complaint filed by Montagnino will be used in the lawsuit.
The state Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating alleged civil rights violations by Saratoga Springs’ prior administration.
“This is a sort of a vicious cycle that he apparently wants to jump into – I don’t and I won’t be cajoled, persuaded or threatened to jump into it because I respect the taxpayers too much,” Kim said Wednesday.
Montagnino said Wednesday that, while he has hired a lawyer, he won’t be seeking any legal action against the city regarding the resolution, calling it “meaningless.”
“As originally drafted, the resolution would have deprived me of my statutory right to defense and indemnification under the public officers law as well as the city code,” he said. “The resolution that was passed last night simply pays lip service to the fact that the council has the right to review any claim, which the council would have the right to review whatever the council chose to review with or without the resolution.”
However, Kim said Wednesday that Montagnino misunderstood the resolution and that it actually states the City Council will determine whether it should indemnify a council member if and when it gets to that point.
Correction 7:26 p.m. 4/6: A portion of the second paragraph with an incorrect description has been removed.