Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

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

Friday, 26 January 2024 10:37

Dillon Moran and His Deputy Tamper With On-Call Payment Resolution

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

it now turns out that the final version of the resolution authorizing such payments was improperly tampered with. It was edited in a way that apparently was meant to help make the Deputy Accounts Commissioner, Stacy Connors, eligible for on-call payments.

Tampering with the city’s legislative records is, at a minimum, a violation of trust and possibly a violation of the law.

A Cumbersome System

The last City Council frequently amended resolutions at the table during Council meetings but regularly did not read the entire amended resolution aloud before voting on it as had been the custom of previous Councils. When this happened, the Council meeting’s minutes contained only the amendment and not the full resolution. The entire final resolution, as amended, is eventually supposed to be loaded into Laserfiche, located in the Accounts Department.

Historically, the assistant city clerk was responsible for updating the text of resolutions that had been amended. The assistant clerk would then store it on the city server in Laserfiche. The resolutions on Laserfiche are not available for direct access by the public. I had to FOIL for this document.

The resolution that established on-call pay was amended at the Council meeting on February 9, 2023, to remove wording in order to allow the Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety to be eligible for on-call benefits. (Ironically, Jason Tetu, the Deputy Commissioner, however, was the only Deputy not to seek payments.) This amendment is recorded in the minutes and the video of the meeting. This is not the wording of the amended resolution, however, that now appears on the Laserfiche in the Accounts Department.

Where Did That Come From?

The resolution adopted by the Council limited eligibility for on-call pay to departments that had emergencies outside of normal city business hours.

Someone tinkered with the text to add the two words “and events.”

Connors’ On-Call Pay Form Contains The Tampered Language

Stacy Connors was the first Deputy to submit a form to the Finance Department to get on-call pay. Significantly, the form she submitted contains the word “event” that was not used in the actual Council resolution.

Notice that her request for payment form echoes the resolution that was doctored.

The significance of the two words “and events” that were added to the resolution becomes evident in reviewing Connor’s payment forms, all of which contain Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran’s signature authorizing the payment. On her form, she lists under “reasons” such “events” as City Council meetings and a wake. As we shall see, Moran uses the word “events” to go even further in an effort to justify paying this money to his Deputy.

Moran’s Narrative

Moran has been on a campaign in city hall vehemently denying that anything was wrong in paying Connors for “being on call.” He claims that Connors works sixty hours a week (snark alert: an impossible thing to do on a regular basis given the routine responsibilities of the very fully staffed Accounts Department, which basically provides licenses, special documents, and assesses real property.). As such, he alleges that she deserves the on-call benefit.

Unfortunately for Moran, the resolution was not for overtime (which, as a salaried employee, she is not eligible for anyway) but for being on call for “emergencies,” to which the Accounts Department is not subject.

An Email Exchange That Says It All

Included below is an exchange of emails between Ginny Scavuzzo, a concerned citizen, and Moran. Ms. Scavuzzo emailed City Council members expressing concern over the on-call pay for Deputies issue. Moran replies with a series of unusual arguments in defense of the pay. Here are some highlights:

To begin with, lest there be any confusion, Moran writes to Ms. Scavuzzo:

“Nobody, let me repeat, nobody has done anything wrong.”

He then asserts that the purpose of the resolution was to address the long standing issues with inadequate pay for the Deputies. On one level, this is true. The same resolution that established on-call benefits increased the salaries of all the Deputies by a considerable amount. Ms. Connors went from a salary of $80,818.00 to $91,650.00. I actually have no problem with this. I am willing to accept the arguments put forward at the Council table of the need for these increases to attract and keep qualified Deputies. (It is interesting to note, though, that there are no job descriptions for the Deputy positions, nor are there any requirements as to who can be hired.)

Unfortunately for Moran, the issue in question is not the merit of the raises for Deputies but who, according to the resolution, is eligible for on-call pay.

Moran then goes on to attack Ms. Scavuzzo for alleged misogyny. 

What is concerning to me is that you have only been prompted to ask about the women in these positions, not the men. I find it off putting that those “reporting” on this somehow leave them out. 

Dillon Moran

It is interesting how mercurial Moran is about which women benefit from his largess. Consider Lisa Ribis, the assistant city clerk in the Accounts Department, who records the minutes of Council meetings. Under Mayor Ron Kim, the Council meetings would go on for hours, often late into the night. For reasons that only Moran would know, he decided not to compensate her for her time at these meetings as required by her contract. She had to submit a grievance to the State Pubic Employees Relations Board, which Moran lost, in order to compel Moran to compensate her properly.

Moran goes on to make further use of the term “event” claiming:

My department is responsible for a number of aspects of our government including our Special Events, which were relaunched after 2 years of inactivity. We completed 63 events in 2023 and my deputy was on call for every one of them and very often was required to respond on weekends and holidays. 

Dillon Moran

It is hard not to use hyperbole in describing how absurd his claim is. Special events are things like 5K foot races, Chowderfest, parades, events at the casino, etc. The Accounts Department is responsible for giving out permits for these kinds of events. These events are run by the sponsoring group. Sometimes, the event requires assistance from the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Public Works, but the Accounts Department has no responsibility beyond the approval of the permits for the events. It is rather stunning that he would claim his Deputy must be on-call for these events.

Next, Moran turns to a financial argument:

The amount of money being questioned is less than .01% of our budget and it’s simply revolting to me that the hardest working women in our government are being attacked because they are being paid for the work they do. 

Dillon Moran

The amount of money is small in relation to the city budget, but for most of us, the $4,136.75 that Connors was paid improperly for being on-call is still a significant piece of change. Worse, Moran ignores the more serious matter, which is that she was not eligible for this pay.

Moran goes on to make another false argument:

As it is, our deputies qualify for subsidized housing as they barely make an average income for this area. 

Dillon Moran

The Liberty Housing project for workforce housing that Moran has championed has an eligibility threshold based on 60% to 80% of AMI (annual median income).  

I don’t know if Ms. Connors is married.  If she is single, then the appropriate per-capita income would not be for households but for individuals. So, for Saratoga Springs, the median income for individuals is $57,836.00.  According to the February 11, 2023, TU story on the special wage increase awarded at the February 9, 2023, Council meeting, Ms. Connors’s salary is $91,650.00.  So, if Ms. Connors is single, she would have a salary that is almost 60% over the median income for the city and way, way over the eligibility threshold for subsidized housing.  Contrary to Moran’s statement in his email,  Deputies’ salaries are well in excess of eligibility for subsidized housing.

Moran’s History Of Falsifying Documents

This would not be the first time Moran has been involved in tampering with documents. In 2019, Moran ran against the late Commissioner of Public Works, Skip Scirocco. During that campaign, he sent out a mailer with an image of a letter from the New York State Department of Health. Moran doctored the letter so that it appeared to charge the city with having unsafe drinking water. Here is a link to the image of the flyer.

In addition, he was exposed for creating a fake website meant to misdirect people seeking information regarding charter change.

The Email Exchange

Email From Scavuzzo

From: “GINNY SCAVUZZO” <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
To: “public comment” <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2024 1:02:10 PM
Subject: Public Comment regarding On Call Pay

Dear Mayor Safford and Council Member,

I am submitting my public comment in writing regarding the “On Call Pay” issue. 

I have questions: 

  1. Have City Deputies been improperly paid for allegedly being “on call”? 
  2. Have they actually been “on call” or have they been paid for actual responsibilities that under their job description? 
  3. Did three of the city Deputies, facilitated by their respective bosses, use a poorly defined provision adopted by the Saratoga Springs City Council to pay:
  • Angella Rella, Deputy Mayor: $5,640.75
  • Stacy Connors, Deputy Commissioner of Accounts: $4,136.75
  • Heather Crocker, Deputy Commissioner of Finance: $1,128.15
  1. Was the language of  the February 2023 resolution for “on call” pay for public works employees so poorly crafted,  it was vulnerable to abuse? 
  2. Did Commissioner Sanghvi properly monitor and manage this perk? 

I believe others have already asked these questions, so my ask is 

  1. Where has transparency been, no less accountability? Apparently others have been asking, but they claim that they have been ignored.  Ignoring a problem or a perceived one, doesn’t make it go away. 

I think we deserve to know what actual “on call” means and be reassured that it doesn’t mean “already documented responsibilities”. 

I appreciate, Mr Mayor, that you said last evening that the issue is being reviewed by the city’s legal department.  But…

  1. What if, because of the way the resolution was written, these payment are not considered illegal? What then? Are they then just a) immoral  b) amoral or c) just plain greedy?

I appreciate your reading and considering my comments. 

Furthermore, I would like knowing that public comments don’t fall on deaf ears as I’ve witnessed over the past years.  

There’s a reason, Mayor Kim was not re-elected.  There also is a reason the re-elected council members (although running unopposed) may not have gotten full support on Election Day.  

We are your constituents; we elected you and we are in hopes that you listen and that you hear us.  Thank you. 

In closing, I thank you all for your service to the city.  

Ginny Scavuzzo

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Moran Responds

On Wed, Jan 17, 2024 at 4:28 PM Dillon Moran <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote:

Ms Scavuzzo,

I appreciate you reaching out. 

Unfortunately misinformation has been spread throughout the community by folks more concerned with creating political arguments than doing the work for the city. 

Nobody, let me repeat, nobody has done anything wrong. Every commissioner is equal per our charter and every deputy is equal as well. 

The pay program that was passed a year ago addressed long standing issues with inadequate pay for the Deputies, the Full Time manager of our respective departments. (Commissioner Coll has said on more than one occasion that he would not have been able to hire a qualified deputy had we not improved the pay program). 

What is concerning to me is that you have only been prompted to ask about the women in these positions, not the men. I find it off putting that those “reporting” on this somehow leave them out. 

My department is responsible for a number of aspects of our government including our Special Events, which were relaunched after 2 years of inactivity. We completed 63 events in 2023 and my deputy was on call for every one of them and very often was required to respond on weekends and holidays. 

The amount of money being questioned is less than .01% of our budget and it’s simply revolting to me that the hardest working women in our government are being attacked because they are being paid for the work they do. 

As it is, our deputies qualify for subsidized housing as they barely make an average income for this area. 

Don’t we want to attract and keep the best qualified public servants?

I am more than happy to answer other questions that you may have. 

Kind Regards,

Dillon Moran

Commissioner of Accounts 

City of Saratoga Springs

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