Four Saratoga Springs City Council members have opted to back Kristen Dart for Public Safety Commissioner, continuing to show the clear divide among city council members and current Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning in Congress Park in front of the bench dedicated to Dart’s grandfather, Clarence Dart Sr., who served with the Tuskegee Airmen.
Tensions between Montagnino, who has the Democratic Party nomination, and the City Council has been increasingly high since Montagnino filed a disorderly conduct complaint against Chandler Hickenbottom, a co-founder of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, for disrupting a February city council meeting. That complaint was dropped in court.
Montangino also filed a disorderly conduct complaint and obstructing governmental administration charge against Saratoga BLM co-founder Lexis Figuereo. That matter is still pending in court.
Those complaints and the charge were just one of the reasons Dart said she decided to run. She is running on the third party Community First line.
“I chose to get into this race when it became clear to me that the current Commissioner of Public Safety was not interested in strengthening and building this community, especially after he issued multiple summons for people speaking in City Council meetings,” she said. “I cannot stand by and allow my two opponents to pretend they stand for public safety in our community, especially given their history.”
Tim Coll is running as the Republican nominee. Dart said Coll, a former FBI agent, was part of multiple entrapment schemes that “led to the sentencing of innocent muslims.”
Coll denies the claims.
“Ms. Dart is the chair of the Civilian Review Board and it would be helpful if she had a better command of the facts before she speaks,” Coll said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.
Montagnino’s actions are also one of the reasons Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran said he supports Dart.
“We need somebody that can collaborate,” Moran said. “We need somebody that can communicate with all sides on an issue, we don’t currently have that.”
Moran said Montagnino didn’t pick someone to sit on the mayor’s task force on homelessness and voted against a Restorative Justice resolution.
Mayor Ron Kim said Dart has a lot of experience that she can bring to the job.
Dart is currently vice president of political affairs at Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, previously serving as its political director. Dart also worked in Rhode Island for six years, including time as the deputy director of house policy for the state and working for the Providence mayor’s office, where she worked on the Community Safety Act, an ordinance which creates police accountability.
“Part of the commissioner of public safety’s role is legislation,” he said. “You have to talk to them, you have to convince them of your side, of your positions, etcetera. We haven’t had that–we’ll get that with Kristen Dart because she knows how to legislature, she knows government. “
He also said Dart has the compassion this job needs and willingness to speak to people in the community.
Montagnino said the endorsement was Kim trying to appease Saratoga BLM.
“This candidate is the hand-picked candidate of Saratoga BLM and this event today is an act of appeasement because Mayor Kim understands he cannot be re-elected if he continues to allow the city council meetings to be disrupted by protestors who refuse the yield the microphone, who refuse to follow the rules of order,” he said. “The hope here is that by the rest of the City Council’s endorsement of Saratoga BLM’s candidate they’ll remain quiet for the rest of the election season to allow the mayor to get re-elected.”
Dart said BLM did not influence or have any part in her decision to run.
“I had zero conversation with Saratoga BLM before I ran,” she said.
Saratoga BLM co-founder Lexis Figuereo said they didn’t know Dart was running prior to her announcement. However, he said it is the candidate they support.
“Jim has shown plenty of times that he is not the right person to be for public safety, so she is taking a stance to stand up for what’s right and instead of protesting or doing other things, this is her form of protest – to run for office – and hopefully she wins, because we need somebody to actually create change in our community,” he said.
Kim said he has talked to many Democrats who are not happy with Montagnino’s actions.
“I’m doing what’s right,” he said.
The decision by the council members does not go against any Democratic Party standards, said chairman Otis Maxwell.
“It’s fine that they did that, they certainly have the right to do that,” Maxwell said.
He said Dart was previously on the Democratic Party Committee.
“She’s just a good person and I don’t want to say anything pro or against her campaign,”
However, Maxwell did raise concerns about what Dart would do with her role as the chairperson of the Civilian Review Committee if elected in November.
Dart previously said she does not believe at this time that her campaign is a conflict of interest to remain in her position on the city’s Civilian Review Board because the board is focused on determining the policy and procedures of the board and not reviewing any complaints. She said if they begin reviewing complaints while she is campaigning then she would find that to be a conflict of interest.
Maxwell said a majority of committee members previously voted to maintain Montangino’s endorsement and more recently provide a $1,000 donation to his campaign fund and money to other candidates who are facing opponents this November.
“It’s clear that not only do I continue to have the Democratic nomination, but I continue to have the majority endorsement of the Democratic city committee in Saratoga Springs,” he said.