Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Monday, 21 November 2022 09:50

Commissioner Sanghvi, You Appear to Be Unaware that Your IT Department Is in Crisis

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
Commissioner Sanghvi, You Appear to Be Unaware that Your IT Department Is in Crisis
There appears to be a breakdown in the Saratoga Springs information technology (IT) department. This department is under Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi. As will be discussed in this post, the Commissioner appears strangely unaware that there are any issues.
 
On Thursday, November 10, 2022, something went very wrong on the city's servers. City employees were unable to access the city's documents on their computers for that entire day. City staff was severely hampered in carrying out their work due to the breakdown. The problems had still not been fully resolved on the following Monday when Mayor Kim discussed the issue at the City Council pre-agenda meeting.
 
The city's agendas posted on the city's website are supposed to have supporting documents available through links for each agenda item. The links to documents on the agenda for the Monday, November 14, 2022, pre-agenda meeting did not function.
 
I cannot recall this kind of breakdown in the past. I contacted former Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and asked about her experience. She told me that in the ten years that she served as Commissioner overseeing IT, the servers were never down, including following the fire that closed city hall.
 
I asked if the servers were "mirrored?" This is a standard practice whereby everything going on on the prime server is updated on what is basically a backup server. Ms. Madigan confirmed that they were.
 
I wrote to Commissioner Sanghvi, asking what is going on? In fact, given the history of our email problems, I wrote her twice (November 10 and November 14). The second email asked that, at a minimum, she acknowledge having received them. When I did not hear from her, on November 16, I called Samantha Clemmey, her Executive Assistant, and asked if their office had received my emails. Ms. Clemmey was very nice. She confirmed that they had received them and assured me she would bring them to Commissioner Sanghvi's attention and that she would respond.
 
Videos Of Meetings Not Being Posted
 
The city's IT department is responsible for posting videos of the City Council and its land use boards on the city's website. This function has apparently broken down. As this is a key responsibility for keeping the public informed of what is transpiring with city government, this failure is particularly disturbing.
 
One of the followers of this blog, Henry37, pointed out the video of the October 27, 2022, meeting of the Planning Board has not been uploaded to the city's website (I am writing this on November 20, some twenty-four days later, and it is still not up). At this meeting, the controversial Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc. proposal was the subject of review. On Thursday, November 17, 2022, the Planning Board met again, and it is my understanding that there was no live stream of the meeting on the city's website. Presumably, they will be discussing the Liberty project further, but without the benefit of knowing what went on at the Planning Board's October 27 meeting or the November 17 meeting, the public is at a distinct disadvantage. I am concerned that as the November 17 meeting was not live streamed over the web, it may not have been videoed at all.
 
City's Website Goes Down
 
 
On Thursday night, November 17, 2022, I tried to get on to the city's website. I was unable to access the site at all this time. I got the message above.
 
City Council Meeting Video Link Fails
 
 
The city's website has a section for agendas, minutes, and videos of Council meetings. Normally when the video of a meeting is available, there is an icon that looks like a tiny television on the city's website that links to it.
 
On November 18, I tried to access the City Council meeting video by clicking on the icon. I got the error screen displayed above.
 
This is yet another unprecedented problem.
 
Staff Turnover
 
All but one of the IT staff from the previous administration have left city employment this year. I expect this has contributed to their problems. Of course, one has to wonder why there has been such a turnover.
 
An Odd Response from Commissioner Sanghvi
 
On November 18, 2022, I received a very odd email from Commissioner Sanghvi. At the end of this post, I am including my two emails to her that apparently prompted this response.
 
Strangely, Commissioner Sanghvi's email seemed to indicate that she had no idea that there was a city-wide breakdown of the IT system resulting in the city's documents being inaccessible for days.
 
This is particularly odd because, as documented by the following video. At the Monday, November 14, pre-agenda meeting Mayor Kim began by apologizing to the public for the problems with the city's computer system. He references that the resolutions on the agenda are inaccessible. He confirms that the problem extended from Wednesday evening through to Monday.
 
 
With this background, I found it very strange that in her email, she asks me for the names of city employees affected by the breakdown as though she was unaware that there were any problems. After all, in the video, she is sitting next to the Mayor. This is all particularly odd as this problem would have affected her Deputy, her Executive Assistant, and the Budget Director, as well as what she was able to post on her agenda.
 
This is the excerpt from her email in which she asks me to assist her by identifying which employees had experienced problems:
I'm not sure what city employees you're referring to? Could you kindly give me more details. I am happy to set up meetings with the employees you're talking about and our IT staff to help them resolve their issues.
 
Commissioner Sanghvi
Coffee?
In a further odd twist, the Commissioner reminds me in her email that her office had reached out to me in response to my original request to meet with her about the city's budget and then graciously offers to have coffee with me.
 
As documented in an earlier post, I had advised her that the point of the meeting was to discuss her pending budget, and as she could not meet with me until December, there was no point in our getting together.
 
It is quite odd that she appears to have forgotten my response to her.
 
Commissioner Sanghvi Cancels Blogger
 
At the November 15, 2022, City Council meeting, there was a discussion as to whether having a public hearing at 10:00 AM on Monday, November 21, 2022, on the budget was fair to the public as it was not only in the morning of a weekday but it was the week of Thanksgiving.
 
Commissioner Sanghvi observed that there had been repeated public hearings, and no one from the public had been interested in commenting.
 
Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran pointed out that this blogger had attempted to ask budget questions. Commissioner Sanghvi dismissed his point by observing that she does not read right-wing bloggers. Commissioner Moran reminded her that the blogger had tried to address her at a meeting. She retorted that it was not at a public hearing (I asked her about my questions during the public comment period and not during the public hearing portion of the City Council meeting.). When Commissioner Moran attempted to respond, he was cut off by Mayor Kim.
 
Putting aside that I am not a person of the right, to claim transparency, as Commissioner Sanghvi routinely does, an elected official should answer courteous questions no matter what the political persuasion of a citizen.
 
The Emails

From: Minita Sanghvi
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2022 11:57 AM
To: kaufmann
Subject: Re: Servers
Hello Mr. Kaufmann, 
Thank you for your email. I'm not sure what city employees you're referring to? Could you kindly give me more details. I am happy to set up meetings with the employees you're talking about and our IT staff to help them resolve their issues. Usually a reboot is a good way to start but if there are any other issues, we're happy to resolve it (sic). Our IT staff works with all departments 24/7 to ensure our city stays safe and humming along. 
I believe we've also reached out to you about setting up a meeting - please do reply to that too. I'm looking forward to coffee with you. 
Commissioner Sanghvi
Minita Sanghvi
Commissioner of Finance

Saratoga Springs, NY

518-587-3550

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

From: "kaufmann" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
To: "Minita Sanghvi" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2022 5:38:47 PM
Subject: Servers
I wrote to you this weekend inquiring about the apparent problem that city employees are unable to access their documents on the city’s server.  Given our history, I am not sure if you received my inquiry.  Could you please explain what is going on?  At a minimum, could you acknowledge my email to at least affirm that you received it?
Thank you,
JK

John Kaufmann <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Thu, Nov 10, 7:59 PM (8 days ago)
to Minita
I understand that the city’s network was down on Thursday, November 10 all day.  My understanding is that the city has mirrored servers.  Could you explain how this happened?
Thank you

JK
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