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Spa City charter review commission hears from public

Spa City charter review commission hears from public

10-person commission gets input from the public on city's charter
Spa City charter review commission hears from public
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly.
Photographer: Erica Miller

 A dozen residents, including a former mayor and former commission members, offered their suggestions to the city's Charter Review Commission at a public forum on Wednesday. 

Kenneth Klotz, who was mayor from 2000-2003, said the current charter has "frequently been ignored, partially implemented or not at all."

"Whatever changes the commission makes, there needs to be enforcement to make sure things happen," he said to the commission. 

One of the things the commission is looking into is whether the city attorney position, which is appointed by the mayor, should also be approved by the City Council. 

Klotz said the city attorney should continue to be appointed by the mayor, who should also continue to appoint members of city's land use boards. 

"All of the mayor's duties should be subject to delegation in the current charter, so the mayor can say if they want someone else to do it," he said. "Otherwise, it will weaken the hand of the mayor and I don't think that's a good idea."

Mayor Meg Kelly appointed a 10-person Charter Review Commission at a March 6 City Council meeting. 

The commission is chaired by City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.

Members include: Deputy Commissioner of Finance Michael Sharp, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works John Daley, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shields, Deputy Commissioner of Accounts Maire Masterson, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Joseph O'Neill, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan and Commissioner of Public Works Anthony "Skip" Scirocco. 

The commission has been tasked with making recommendations to amend the city's current charter and will submit a charter proposal to the voters of Saratoga Springs for a referendum in the November election.

DeLeonardis said the commission, which held its sixth meeting on May 24, is not looking to change the form of government. He said the commission is seeking to make operational improvements to the charter in order for City Hall to run more effectively.  

"We've completed an initial review and will vote on particular issues moving forward," he said.

DeLeonardis added that in addition to hosting a public forum, the commission has also solicited input from City Hall employees, former City Council members and deputy mayors. 

Barbara Thomas, co-president of the League of Women Voters and former Charter Review Commission member, said she would like the city to hire an independent internal auditor so "the Finance Department isn't auditing themselves."

"It's important that an outside entity look at procedures, where the money is going and specific parts of City Hall," she said. "It should be a different company each time."

Thomas also said the charter should outline specific qualifications for deputy mayors. 

"You need to design qualifications for deputies that can't be waived, so they're not friends or political supporters who ran a campaign," she said to the commission. "They should be true professionals who can run a department."

Thomas added, "While I don't think that continuing to keep the City Council as legislators and members of the council is a good idea, there are things that can make current charter better."

Resident Jane Weihe said she likes the city's commission form of government. 

"It keeps the government closest to the people and keeps it accessible and accountable," she said to the commission. "I urge you to keep two-year terms to keep elected officials accountable, so voters can review their performance and choose who to vote for."

The suggestion of having the mayor and another City Council member fill the two Saratoga County Board of Supervisors seats the city has was also brought up at the forum. 

Weihe said she prefers the city keep those positions separate. 

"The other supervisors on the Board of Supervisors represent smaller towns in the county, so they don't have the same complexity our city has," she said. "Also, our office holders have enough to do without taking on another responsibility.

"Plus, it gives people something else to run for." 

The next Charter Review Commission meeting will be held on June 13 from 4-7 p.m. at City Hall, 474 Broadway in Saratoga Springs. 

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