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Complaint filed against Saratoga Springs mayor

Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim speaking on Election Night in 2021
Lucas Willard
Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim speaking on Election Night in 2021

A group of Saratoga Springs residents has filed a complaint to a state court grievance committee against the city’s mayor.

On Thursday, a group of three Saratoga Springs residents announced a complaint against newly-elected Democratic Mayor Ron Kim.

At issue, according to the complainants, is the city’s delay in hiring a new city attorney and Kim, a licensed attorney, acting on behalf of the city in a court case in January.

“It can’t go on like this.”

Jane Weihe, a former city Democratic committee chair, announced a complaint to the Attorney Grievance Committee of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, along with her husband and local political blogger John Kaufmann, and Michael Brandi, an attorney who belongs to the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee.

The trio alleges Kim’s actions in purporting to represent the city while serving as mayor are a conflict of interest.

Weihe, who unsuccessfully ran on a Democratic ticket with Kim in 2007, says she wants the new city council that includes four new Democratic councilors to succeed.

“And I want to them to govern well, but I want the city to succeed and for that to happen they have to start following the rules,” said Weihe.

Weihe and the others point to a January 24th order by City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait that admonished Kim. The order, from a routine case related to a builder’s permit, detailed the events surrounding a court hearing four days earlier where Kim acted on behalf of the city.

Judge Wait insists in his letter that despite Kim’s actions, the mayor knew he did not have the authority to take on the role and characterized his behavior as “highly irregular.”

The letter drafted to the Attorney Grievance Committee lays out a number of allegations against Kim, claiming the mayor’s actions potentially violate the city charter’s Rules of Professional Conduct and could amount to malpractice.

Attorney Michael Brandi…

“We want Ron to appoint a city attorney and comport himself according to the law and his professional obligations to the voter,” said Brandi.

“They’re really just trying to throw mud,” said Kim.

Mayor Kim dismissed the complaint, which he first learned about when WAMC asked for comment. Kim questioned why the group was seeking recourse from the Attorney Grievance Committee when they had not been personally represented by him.

“This is the attorney disciplinary body. That’s what they’re trying to do here. And they didn’t have the courtesy to send me a copy," said Kim.

Kim added the city is appealing Judge Wait’s decision because the hearing on January 20th was conducted without the city being present.

Kim did not appear at that hearing. His office reported to the court that the defendant had agreed to an adjournment earlier in the day.

The court, according to Wait, asked the clerk to contact the defendant, who was informed that there had been a misunderstanding and that he was required to attend. The defendant ultimately showed up, Kim did not, and the mayor contends he was not contacted by the court and told to attend.

“You know, we assumed, and this may be my mistake, that, essentially [Judge Wait] had, in fact adjourned it because it was a request on consent. We did get, despite what [Wait] says in his conclusions of law, we did get a consent by this gentlemen. So in the end, it worked in the past for a couple…we assumed it was going to continue to be a pattern until we got counsel and unfortunately it suddenly didn’t seem to fit with what the judge wanted…but that’s fine. Call us in and we’ll be happy to address whatever concerns the judge had,” said Kim.

The Democratic mayor insists he never made misrepresentations to the city court.

Saratoga Springs has been without a city attorney since the former city attorney and assistant city attorney were not reappointed when Kim took over. Kim wants a fresh start. In the Saratoga Springs system of government, the city attorney serves under the auspices of the mayor.

Vincent DeLeonardis, who served as city attorney under two previous mayors, was appointed in 2014. Kim, a former City Public Safety Commissioner, and DeLeonardis often came to divergent opinions during discussions regarding police reform in 2020 and 2021.DeLeonardis was a non-voting member of the city’s Police Reform Task Force.

DeLeonardis is also politically connected – his wife is a former city Democratic Committee chair who left her position after a contentious 2019 primary, and has remained a founder of the One Saratoga platform. One Saratoga chose not to endorse candidates in the 2021 election cycle.

Tony Izzo, the former assistant city attorney, was one of the city’s longest-serving employees.

Kim had chosen a nominee for city attorney last month, but she ultimately withdrew her name after debate over her residency in the neighboring community of Middle Grove.

Kaufmann, one of the three to bring the complaint forward this week, had brought his concerns to Mayor Kim, and has presented his arguments online that the city attorney is a public officer and is thereby required to live within city limits.

Meantime, Kim tells WAMC an announcement regarding the hiring of a new city attorney will be made during the February 15th city council meeting.

“I absolutely believe the charter requires that I appoint an attorney, but here’s what it doesn’t say: shall do it in 30 days, shall do it in 40 days, do you see what I’m saying? And we have not never said – ever – from this office that I was never intending to do this.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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