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, 28 May 2024 10:01

City Council About to Make an Unfortunate Choice

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

Jennifer Leidig has resigned from the Saratoga Springs Civil Service Commission, leaving a vacancy. The Commission has three members. No two can be affiliated with the same political party according to the city charter . Currently one is a Democrat ( Joanna Zangrando), one is a Republican (Tim Holmes), and one is a registered voter with no party affiliation (Ms. Leidig) The Commissioners serve six year staggered terms.

While usually it has been the Mayor who nominates individuals to fill vacancies on this Commission, the City Charter gives the Council the authority to vote to appoint the members.

This time Mayor John Safford has put forward Vince DeLeonardis's name, but Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran is supporting Jeff Altamari to fill Ms. Leidig's position. Both candidates are registered voters with no party affiliation so both are technically able to be appointed to the Commission. Mr. Altamari, however, has a very partisan history of supporting the local Democrats and has no experience with municipal employment issues. In contrast Mr. DeLeonardis has stayed clear of partisan politics and as former City Attorney from 2014 to 2022 has extensive knowledge of city civil service issues.

The Saratoga Springs Civil Service Commission is responsible for adopting and modifying local civil service rules, classifying positions and adopting job descriptions, administering the civil service examination process, overseeing and authorizing all employment transactions, and maintaining the official employment records for all employees of the City of Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Springs Central School District, the Saratoga Springs Public Library, the City Center and the Housing Authority. Readers will remember that controversial issues like whether the Risk and Safety Director should have been under the direction of Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran or Mayor Ron Kim were decided ultimately by the city's Civil Service Commission.

A Titular Independent

The following are the donations made by Mr. Altamari since July 2020. As is clear, Mr. Altamari's donations are all to Democrats.

In addition to making donations, Mr. Altamari has served as the treasurer for Joanne Yepsen (D), Meg Kelly (D), and Gordon Boyd (D). He may have served other candidates but these are the three I was able to find. Again, the only candidates he has served as treasurer are all Democrats.

This is a picture of Mr. Altamari at a Democratic Fundraiser from 2017. Mr. Altamari is on the left.

Mr. Altamari had a successful career as an executive with an oil company in Texas and has retired to Saratoga Springs.

While technically, Mr. Altamari is eligible for the independent seat on the Civil Service Commission, his records indicate a strong identification with the Democratic Party.

In October 2017, I posted about an intemperate and inaccurate letter to the editor Mr. Altamari wrote attacking then Accounts Commissioner John Franck. Readers might take the time to watch the video associated with his letter and decide for themselves whether my characterization of it was appropriate.

A Real Independent

Like Mr. Altamari, Vince DeLeonardis is an unaffiliated registered voter. Unlike Mr. Altamari, though, Mr. DeLeonardis has not made a contribution to either the Democrats or the Republicans. His only contribution was to the One Saratoga Party. Readers may remember that this party endorsed both Democrats and Republicans, which, to my mind, epitomizes who would be best suited to act as an independent on the Commission.

More importantly, Mr DeLeonardis served as the City Attorney from October ,2014, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by Mayor Kim in January, 2022. During his tenure, he worked collegially and effectively with the elected officials of both parties on the Council. He established a record of fairness and thoroughness. Clearly, his long tenure as City Attorney means that he would have a much greater understanding of our city government's staffing than Mr. Altamari who's only experience was in the private sector.

To this blogger, there is no comparison between the qualifications of Mr. DeLeonardis and Mr. Altamari.

Golub Yet Again The Swing Vote

It is my understanding that Mayor Safford approached Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub to inquire which of the two men he intended to vote for. Golub told him he was supporting Altamari. As Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi has reliably supported every resolution brought forward by Commissioner Moran, so Golub's vote guarantees that Altamari will be the next appointed member of the Civil Service Commission.

I texted Commissioner Golub, asking him why he was supporting Altamari over DeLeonardis. He never responded.

This is all very disappointing. DeLeonardis was an extraordinary City Attorney who would have provided an invaluable voice on the Commission.

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