Saratoga Springs mayor unveils plan to save money on legal services – The Daily Gazette

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Three weeks into office, Mayor Ron Kim said the city is looking for an attorney.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Kim unveiled a plan to revamp legal services that he says will save the city up to $70,000 a year without compromising the quality of its services.

The previous city administration ran the city with a full-time city attorney and a part-time assistant attorney.

Kim said his appointee would work an average of 30 hours a week and receive an annual salary ranging from $95,000 to $100,000, which he said would put the spa town in line with other communities of a similar size.

Kim was set to appoint Elizabeth Fairbanks-Fletcher of Greenfield to the position, for an annual base salary of $97,000. But Fairbanks-Fletcher withdrew from consideration, Kim said after the meeting.

The city attorney provides legal services and advice to the council, mayor, commissioners and city departments. The job also requires the appointee to attend regular board meetings and other meetings, and to act as an information officer for Freedom of Information Act requests.

Kim, a consumer protection attorney whose deputy mayor Angela Rella is also a lawyer, said he is looking to hire in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Kim said he and his deputy will handle requests for legal services.

Kim said the city spent $264,000 last year on in-house and outside attorneys.

The city attorney and assistant attorney earned $178,000 last year, and the city spent $86,000 on outside counsel.

The city has budgeted about $100,000 for an outside attorney in 2022.

By comparison, Jamestown — a town in western New York similar in size to Saratoga Springs — spent about $132,000 on in-house attorneys last year, Kim said.

Kim said he was also calling for increased transparency by asking Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi to provide easy and continuous access to what the city spends on outside attorneys in various city departments.

At present, according to Kim, the current expenses of lawyers are difficult to track, unless you know the different positions within municipal services. He said it took his new administration four days to sort out the real costs.

Kim also cited five former mayors who ran the city with a part-time attorney.

John Kaufmann — who criticized Kim’s reorganization plan on his blog, Saratoga Springs Politics — asked Kim if he could actually appoint a lawyer who didn’t live in the city, among other concerns.

Kim said he was on solid ground in his belief that he could appoint a city attorney who does not reside within the city limits.

To support his argument, the mayor cited a case in Mechanicsville and his appointment of a nonresident in the role. Kim said there are also several notices from the state attorney general’s office that say a city or town attorney is not a public officer like a district attorney is.

But Kaufmann said he spoke to a number of attorneys who have extensive knowledge of municipal law, and he said each of them was unequivocal that the city attorney is a public officer.

Delayed address

In other business, the council approved a resolution for Kim to delay his state of the city address — normally given before the first regular meeting scheduled in February — until March 19 or earlier. He said the delay was in the interest of limiting public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the council passed a resolution introduced by Auditor Dillon Moran that requires all city employees to wear KN95 and N95 masks, which are considered by medical experts to be the best protection against the coronavirus when it comes to safety. face covering.

Moran said the measure goes a step further than the previous council resolution of Aug. 17 which requires all employees and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a face mask when entering company buildings. town. The city has no right to require members of the public to wear a specific style of face mask, Moran said.

Contact journalist Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

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