Thanks are due to Matt Veitch and Tara Gaston — the two people elected to represent Saratoga Springs on the county government level – for their perseverance in trying to keep citizens informed about what Veitch aptly described as a “breakdown” at the county. There is indeed a disturbing breakdown of accountability, procedures, and representation in Saratoga County government.
Thanks also to John Kaufmann, whose Saratoga Springs Politics website includes conveniently edited segments of Veitch and Gaston’s reports to the City Council. They are short, easy to digest, and revealing. Well worth your time.
I listened in on a late April meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors that ran well over three hours, about half of which consisted of inadequately justified “executive sessions” – meaning the public was shut out. Some supervisors were at the county board meeting and others participated by phone; it was often difficult to hear what was being said and impossible to know who was talking.
When all was said and done, several participating supervisors seemed even more confused and frustrated than I was. They couldn’t get a straight answer to straightforward questions about time-and-a-half pay someone had authorized for certain county employees ostensibly related to COVID-19. Questions like: How many employees, which employees, the cost, and when and how the employees were notified of the start and stop of this extra pay. Not to mention who obligated the county to this without going through normal channels, and why it was granted in the first place, especially to well-paid salaried staff.
The situation was so inexplicably tortuous that the supervisors narrowly agreed an external investigation was needed to get to the bottom of it. Significantly, Saratoga Springs Supervisor Veitch was the swing vote. He and his colleagues reasonably expected the ultimate selection of an investigator to go through the usual processes. Instead, a contract was quickly signed without notifying Veitch and other supervisors, without addressing the scope of the investigation, the cost, or the firm selected.
Meanwhile, the county board chairman, Preston Allen of the town of Day, has canceled yet another regular monthly county board meeting. These could be conducted remotely with or without video, for both elected and citizen participation. This is a time for government leadership, not for ducking basic accountability.