Edward Spychalski, whose recent tenure as executive director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority has been marked by controversy over bedbugs and his salary, will retire late next year.
The Housing Authority board of directors has been informed that Spychalski wants to leave at the end of 2014, though the board may ask him to stay a few months longer, said board Chairman Eric Weller.
The board voted Thursday to begin a search for a consultant to help select a deputy director who would train with and eventually replace Spychalski, who is the authority’s only administrator.
Spychalski has worked for the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority since 2006 and worked for other Capital Region housing authorities before that. “He has 30 years in public housing,” Weller said.
The board also voted to approve a 2013-2014 salary for Spychalski of $144,921 — no increase from this year, but the same salary level that has been criticized by City Council members and the state Comptroller’s Office.
“We were prepared to give him a raise, but he asked that [his salary] be frozen to avoid further controversy,” Weller said after the meeting at the Stonequist Apartments.
City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who attended the meeting, said she was disappointed the authority board approved the salary without City Council input. She had asked the board to table the salary approval until the council could look at comparable salaries.
“One of our goals is to have this come before the council for salary approval,” she said. “I’m disappointed they did it this way.”
The matter will come up at the June 4 council meeting, Madigan said.
Weller contends the housing authority board has to answer only to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides its funding.
While the City Council can vote to approve or reject the executive director’s salary, a city attorney concluded last year that the council doesn’t have the power to set a different salary.
Spychalski’s salary for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, was approved 6-1, with board member Ken Ivins, a former city finance commissioner, voting against it. Ivins said he stood by his proposal of last July that Spychalski’s salary should be reduced to about $116,000, to make it comparable to what similar-sized authorities pay.
The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority owns 339 rental units.
The state Comptroller’s Office, in an audit released last December, found Spychalski’s salary to be the highest director’s salary at any housing authority in the Capital Region, including some that are much larger.
But Weller has defended the salary, saying it is in keeping with a policy set in 1981 that the authority’s executive director be paid about what a local school principal makes.
“What I have indicated to the City Council is that it is within the range of a principal in Saratoga Springs,” Weller said. “You have to consider longevity.”
Spychalski also came in for criticism starting in late 2011, when there was a bedbug problem at Stonequist Apartments. The authority’s initial response to the problem was faulted as slow and inadequate, though exterminators were eventually called in and the problem eliminated.