In earlier posts, I have reported on Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim’s debacle in his attempt to act as the City Attorney in City Court over a code violation case (see links to stories at end of this post). He received highly critical coverage for his actions, including an editorial in the Times Union (page down in their editorial to find the reference).
Most recently, Miller Mannix, the private law firm Kim has engaged to appeal this case is now also filing an additional suit, an Article 78. Apparently, Miller Mannix convinced Mayor Kim that the regular appeal might not prevail, so as a backup, they have prepared this additional legal action.
I have FOILed the city to try to find out how much all this legal work is costing.
What’s even more troubling is that this legal work on the part of Miller Mannix appears to be pointless given actions being taken by the City’s Building Department and the owner of the property in question.
An Utterly Pointless Suit
The case in question was the “City of Saratoga Springs v Church Street Trust”. It involved a contractor who initiated work without a permit on a building he owned. When the city failed to appear for the hearing (see story below), City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait dismissed the case against the contractor.
It is important to understand that Judge Wait’s decision did not empower the contractor to proceed with his project without a building permit. In fact, Judge Wait’s decision included that the dismissal was “without prejudice,” which meant the city could refile its complaint and pursue the case with representation by a properly appointed City Attorney.
In fact, as the documents below illustrate, the city has still not issued a building permit to the contractor. Rather the city’s Code Enforcement Department has submitted its complaint again. This complaint, in addition to the issue of not having a building permit, now includes additional code violations.
If the purpose of the Miller Mannix appeal is to ensure that the contractor does not do any work before all code violations are addressed and a proper building permit issued, the new complaint submitted by code enforcement (see documents below) that will be heard in city court this summer will achieve this. There is no reason to expend public money appealing the Wait decision.
Adding to the pointlessness of the appeal and the Article 78 is the recent revelation that the contractor now has a contract to sell the property that is at the root of the conflict. This would render the violations against the current owner moot as well.
I wrote to Mayor Kim asking why he is pursuing this legal appeal. He did not reply. I even went to a City Council meeting in May and asked him to explain the purpose of the lawsuit. He ignored my question, and no one on the Council used the occasion to seek an answer.
It is regrettable that Mayor Kim, who repeatedly criticizes the past administration for their alleged lack of transparency, fails to live up to the high standards he espouses.
On its face, having Miller Mannix pursue their appeals is about as gross a waste of public moneys as I have ever observed in the eight years I have been writing this blog.
Violating City Procurement Policies
The city has an agreement with the law firm Miller Mannix to provide legal support to the city’s land-use boards. The agreement is very broad in scope, but it appears to be quite a stretch that pursuing a criminal complaint about code violations in municipal court could be constituted as providing legal service to the land-use boards. There is an argument to be made then that Kim should have gone through a separate procurement process to hire Miller Mannix to pursue this code violation case.
I do not think it is unfair to consider that Mayor Kim does not want to procure the services through a separate resolution from the council for these lawsuits because it would highlight their cost and would draw the public’s attention to them.
The Complaint Submitted By Code Enforcement
The following documents demonstrate that the city code enforcement office is seeking to enforce the original violations rendering the appeal and article 78 moot.