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New Saratoga Springs leaders reward campaigners with jobs

New Saratoga Springs leaders reward campaigners with jobs

Shauna Sutton was active in Scott Johnson’s mayoral campaign, and so was her neighbor, Therese Conno

Shauna Sutton was active in Scott Johnson’s mayoral campaign, and so was her neighbor, Therese Connolly. Now both are working in his office.

Kate Jarosh got her experience working in the administration of Gov. George Pataki. Joe Scala also worked for the Republican former governor.

Both have recently been appointed to city positions by newly elected GOP officials.

The slate of elected city officials sworn in on Jan. 1 means new faces in the City Hall offices that carry out the work each day.

These people in appointed patronage positions most likely campaigned for their current bosses and know they’ll be looking for a new job in two years if their patron isn’t re-elected.

Critics of the city’s commission form of government say that’s a bad thing — that it encourages cronyism and party loyalty at the expense of choosing the most qualified person.

Others disagree.

“There’s nothing like working on a campaign to really get to know someone,” Johnson said. He said his appointees are qualified to do their jobs.

“The term ‘patronage job’ is a little misleading and somewhat demeaning,” Johnson said. “Patronage should not be confused with having common goals.”

Most people who work on campaigns do so for the right reasons, not because they expect a job out of the deal, said Lou Schneider, the city’s Democratic Committee chairman.

“If you look at the amount of people that support a candidate or work on their committees, only one or two are going to get a position,” Schneider said.

The four commissioners appoint one deputy each, while the mayor appoints a deputy, an executive assistant, the city attorney and assistant city attorney. In addition to those paid jobs, the mayor also appoints people to volunteer on the city’s land use boards.

Those who got the jobs this time around have a combination of party affiliation, campaign experience, field qualifications and family connections.

All the appointees except two are the same political party as their bosses.

Connolly, a native of Ireland who moved to Saratoga Springs and then married a native Saratogian, is a Democrat, although her husband, Sean Connolly, is a Republican.

She said she met Johnson a few times and got involved in the campaign through neighbor Sutton.

“I’ve always been a Democrat, but my belief has always been to vote for the right person,” she said. “I thought he was the right man for the job.”

And Johnson thought she was the right woman for the job when he was looking to hire an executive assistant.

Patrick Design, the new public works deputy, is a Democrat, unlike his boss, Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. Design was a deputy for three years under Thomas McTygue, also a Democrat.

Here’s a brief “who’s who” of the patronage appointees.

u Public Safety Deputy Eileen Finneran was an Assembly aide in the 1980s and Valerie Keehn’s campaign manager when Keehn was elected in 2005. She also was Keehn’s deputy.

Now the Manhattan native works for Ron Kim, who has been politically allied with Keehn.

Finneran served in the past on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

u Michele Boxley, John Franck’s accounts deputy for two years, was an account executive for public relations firm Palio Communications.

She also grew up in Saratoga Springs, where her father, Mike McGraw, was a longtime teacher and coach in the Saratoga Springs school district.

u Shauna Sutton, a Saratoga Springs native, has been a community activist, lobbying on the winning side against charter reform and an unpopular downtown transportation plan.

Sutton is the superintendent of Greenridge Cemetery Association. Her family has a long history in the area.

Her late father, William H. Sutton Jr., was a county treasurer, said John Herrick, city GOP chairman. And her late mother, Muriel, was a member of the Republican Women’s Club. “Her family’s certainly been involved in politics,” Herrick said.

* Patrick Design owned a roofing company before he stepped up as McTygue’s deputy. He is also regarded as having a good rapport with DPW workers.

“He’s a real hands-on person to work out in the field,” Herrick said.

He worked on Scirocco’s campaign committee.

Design is Sutton’s brother-in-law. She and his wife, Bonnie, are sisters.

Design’s family used to own the Design Motel on South Broadway, and he and his wife owned the former Uncle Sam’s Restaurant on South Broadway as well.

* Kate Jarosh, the deputy for Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, served in the Governor’s Executive Office under Pataki and as special assistant for communications at the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

She also worked on Ivins’ campaign. Jarosh started her own event planning company about six months ago.

* City attorney Joe Scala worked with the new mayor in connection with the tobacco lawsuit settlement. Johnson represented the state in that suit, while Scala worked for the state Attorney General’s Office under Pataki.

They also briefly worked for the same law firm.

Scala also was the counsel for the state Insurance Department, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the town of Saugerties.

* Anthony Izzo has been the assistant city attorney for more than 20 years. Mayors have reappointed him each time to lend continuity in an office that otherwise has seen frequent turnover with a new mayor almost every term, Herrick said.

At about $66,000 a year, deputy commissioners are among the higher paid city employees.

“I think for the amount of hours they put in, they’re not well paid,” Schneider said.

“If you break that down per hour, it’s not as much as people think it is.”

Other key positions in city government are competitive civil service jobs that are protected by the ebb and flow of political changes.

William McTygue, director of public works; Christine Gillmett-Brown, director of finance; Paul Male, city engineer; Lew Benton, the city’s first administrator of parks, open lands and historic preservation; city planners and police officers all took a written test to get their jobs, and they stay regardless of who is in office.

They have to meet the position’s stated qualifications and score within the top three on the exam, explained Patsy Berrigan with the city’s Civil Service Office.

The elected official in charge of the appropriate department then interviews the top candidates and makes the hire.

Part-time clerks, drivers, custodians and laborers don’t need to take a written test to get their jobs, Berrigan said.

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