Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

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

Tuesday, 21 November 2023 09:17

Dillon Moran Proposes City Spend $75,000.00 to Audit Police Reinvention Plan

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran has an item on his agenda for Tuesday night's (11/21/23) City Council to spend $75,000.00 on an "audit" to determine how well the city is implementing the fifty points of the Police Reinvention Plan.

Readers may recall that in 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing all local governments with police agencies to "perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices and develop a plan to improve" them.

Saratoga Springs convened a committee to carry this out and produced a document in 2021 with fifty items they wanted the city to implement.

The firm Moran has chosen to assess the status of the 50 points in the plan appears to have failed to meet the contracting requirements of the city for insurance and has failed to register its limited liability company (LLC) with the state of New York. According to my sources, LLCs must register with the New York State Department of State to transact business in New York.

It is very troubling that city elected officials feel they are incapable of reviewing the implementation of the fifty points and instead are proposing to spend $75,000.00 to do this.

An Odd History

On June 2, 2023, a request for proposals, RFP 2023-29, was issued to pay a consultant to "audit" the implementation of the fifty points of the city's Police Reinvention Plan. The bids had to be submitted by June 13. The city received four proposals.

Then, for some reason, the city reissued the same RFP, now labeled 2023-32, on June 27, 2023, with the bid closing on July 11, 2023. The city received proposals from the same four companies. One company increased its proposal cost by $5,000.

So, the RFP was closed on July 11, 2023, and for unknown reasons, laid dormant until appearing on Commissioner Moran's agenda for the November 21, 2023, City Council meeting some four months later.

A Black Box That Only Moran Has The Key To

The whole process has been totally opaque. Who crafted the original June 2nd RFP? Why was it redone and issued on June 27? Who decided to redo it? All proposals were received by July 11. Why was no action taken until November? Who was involved in screening and selecting the winner?

The other key question is, who will oversee the work of the winning firm? This would typically be stated in the contract, but there is no contract posted.

I expect but do not know for sure, that the answer to all of these questions is Commissioner Dillon Moran.

The only documentation accompanying Moran's agenda item to award this bid is a memo from Accounts Deputy Stacey Connors recommending Beacon Risk Group "based on the experience of the organization" and an incomplete Award of Bid Sign-Off Form. The form states that before an award of bid can be placed on the Accounts Department agenda for a City Council meeting, the form must be completed, and a series of steps must occur. The form posted is incomplete, and there is no documentation that shows that the required steps were taken.

The Winner

The winning proposal was submitted by Beacon Risk Group. Their website describes the firm as follows:

At Beacon Risk Group, no matter where you are in the process of critical asset protection, we can help. We’ll define the risk to your critical assets, determine the vulnerabilities that could be exploited by those seeking to take advantage of your weaknesses, and design controls solutions to close those gaps. We’ll also provide a security function design, organizational structure, and, if desired, a Chief Security Officer as a Service to manage your effort. More than anything, we will leverage our government and private sector expertise to protect what matters most to your organization and do so with a collaborative, best-in-class approach

Beacon Risk Group

The company is located in Virginia. Its principal is Art Cummings. Mr. Cummings's work background includes serving as the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch (Counterterrorism, Counterespionage, Counterintelligence, WMD). 

Below is an addendum to the boilerplate award document.

According to this, Beacon Risk Group (BRG) failed to provide documents as required by the city. These are primary and non-contributory Insurance and Workman's Comp Insurance. If Beacon Risk Group is a one-person operation, they do not have to carry Workman's Comp, but they must get a waiver from the state. According to this document, BRG's general liability insurance expired on September 1, 2023, so they also lack this insurance.

As they are a Limited Liability Company, they are required by New York State to register with the New York State Department of State in order to transact business in New York. A search of the Department of State's database for LLCs failed to come up with BRG.

Jason Golub and Beacon Risk Group

As it turns out, Beacon Risk Group's website had at one time included Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub as a Managing Director of Compliance and Investigations.

I contacted Commissioner Golub. He told me that Art Cummings, the principal owner of BRG, made an error in posting that he was a Managing Director.

Commissioner Golub told me that Cummings is a friend and that he had recommended Cummings to Moran. Commissioner Golub told me that he thought, given Cummings's history with the FBI, that his involvement would help to get buy-in from the police.

While technically, he would not violate the city's ethics rules if he were to vote on the resolution approving Beacon Risk Group, Commissioner Golub also indicated that he would recuse himself.

Why Does The City Need To Hire A Consultant To Do An Inventory Anyway?

Earlier this year, Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino already did an inventory of the fifty points of the city's Police Reinvention Plan, so it appears that Moran's "audit" initiative is yet a further extension of the ongoing conflict at the Council table between Montagnino and the rest of the Council.

As far as I can tell, Moran never challenged the validity of Montagnino's report. This is a link to Montagnino's report on the points that have been addressed. This is a link to Montagnino's report on the points that have not been resolved.

Does this city really lack the ability to internally review the fifty points?

We don't have the money to provide proper staffing for the Civil Service Department. We don't have the money to give a raise to the part-time Civil Service employee who has not had a raise in three years. We don't have the money to hire a Director of Risk and Safety.

The city is unable to comply with the time requirements for FOIL due to the increase in requests. We don't have the money to hire additional help.

The department that handles building codes is understaffed, and needs help, but we don't have the money to help them.

Yet we have the money for this "audit."

Yet Another Demand Coming

In addition to this RFP, the Mayor's Deputy, Angela Rella, has drafted yet another Request For Quote (RFQ), this time on behalf of the city's Restorative Justice Committee. This also has been opaque. The Restorative Justice Committee was established in May 2023 to "begin a community-wide dialog with residents and institutions" to define "what restorative justice means to Saratoga Springs in the 21st Century". They were supposed to report their recommendations on a "Saratoga Springs Restorative Justice Program on or before December 19, 2023. The group has now decided they need professional help to accomplish this task and have been discussing who to award this work to. Apparently, two or three firms are under consideration. At the most recent meeting of the Restorative Justice Committee, Moran promised them he would find the money for it.

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