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Saratoga Springs Supervisor Filing Ethics Complaint Over Removal From Committee

Supervisor Tara Gaston holds a forum at the Saratoga Springs Public Library
Lucas Willard
Supervisor Tara Gaston holds a forum at the Saratoga Springs Public Library (file photo)

A Saratoga County supervisor from Saratoga Springs says her removal from the county’s Health and Human Services committee in July was unlawful.

Last month, Democratic County Supervisor Tara Gaston of Saratoga Springswas removed from the Health and Human Services Committee, of which she was named chair at the start the year.

Gaston says her removal from the committee violates county law.

“I am filing an ethics complaint. I would prefer not to do an Article 78, just because I think the county is already working on employing all of the attorneys in Saratoga County, but my concern is this sets a precedent that cannot be followed,” said Gaston.

Under state law, in an Article 78 proceeding, a state court may review an action of a public official or agency that the plaintiff considers unlawful.

Todd Kusnierz, the Republican County Board of Supervisors Chair who also serves as Moreau Town Supervisor, acknowledged the mid-year changes.

“It’s not uncommon in federal government, state government, local government to make changes in leadership from time-to-time. This was an example of one of those changes. Actually there were multiple changes, not just with Supervisor Gaston. There were changes with other chairmanships. And I appreciate all the work that Supervisor Gaston did and now we have a new chair of the committee,” said Kusnierz.

Appointed in July, Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor is now serving as the new chair as the Health and Human Services Committee. In another change, Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen is the new chair of the Personnel Committee. Both supervisors are also Republicans.

Gaston does not believe she should have been removed from the HHS committee entirely.

“While I think he has the authority to remove me as chairman, I do not think he has the authority to remove me from the committee.”

Kuzniers said that under the rules of the Board of Supervisors, the chairman has the authority to make appointments to the county’s standing committees.

Gaston said she was told the reason for her removal was because she “did not show proper deference to other supervisors.”

“The reason the chairman had given was ‘It’s good sometimes to shake things up in government.’ I don’t think that that’s necessarily an untruth, but I think what we’re seeing right is indicating maybe that’s not a thing that should have been shaken up. Because right now we have essentially no leadership at the county in charge of health. No one coming out, no one speaking, no one saying anything, no one putting out information in a formal manner from the county. And that’s not good.”

As the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to cause a spike in new cases, last week the Board of Supervisors announced the formation of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning Task Force.

The SHARP Task Force is described as a body formed to hear concerns from residents, schools, businesses and others in anticipation of new state and federal pandemic-related health measures.

The Task Force includes Supervisors Kusnierz, O’Connor, and Jonathan Schopf of Clifton Park, as well as the county administrator, county health commissioner, county Director of Human Resources, a representative from the Capital Region Chamber and district superintendent of Capital Region BOCES.

Kusnierz said the Task Force is set to hold its first meeting in the coming days.

“Maybe by the end of this week, certainly by the first of next week,” said Kusnierz. “And as a follow up to that, we’ve reactivated and updated the county dashboard with the latest information that’s out there, and…we’ll probably be holding regular press conferences again just so the public knows what’s going on in county government.”

After Kusnierz became Board of Supervisors Chair in January, regular updates on the state of the pandemic continued into the spring, before being paused as the last wave of COVID-19 subsided.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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