Let’s set the scene: It’s budget time, and the Saratoga Springs’ City Council finally realizes they must layoff a number of employees to prevent a triple-digit budget increase. In their infinite wisdom, the commissioners decide to pay a pair of efficiency experts $50,000 to figure out a way to make the city workforce more lithe and lean.
And somehow, they end up with the Bobs.
The Bobs go to work immediately, scheduling an interview with all the city’s employees. Unlike the commissioners, they realize the teaming number of redundancies filling City Hall and nearly all of its offices. When we join the action, the Bobs are sitting down with Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Eileen Finneran, who has just finished a foot-long grinder and is polishing off the last swallow of a 40 oz. double mocha Coolatta.
Bob Slydell: So what you do is you take direction from the commissioner and implement policies through you department?
Eileen: That, that's right.
Bob Porter: Well, then I gotta ask, then why can't the commissioner just take his orders directly to the department heads, huh?
Eileen: Well, uh, uh, uh, because, uh, the commissioner is not good at dealing with the department heads.
Bob Slydell: You physically take the orders from the commissioner?
Eileen: Well, no, my, my secretary does that, or, or the fax.
Bob Slydell: Ah.
Bob Porter: Then you must physically bring them to the departments.
Eileen: Well...no. Yeah, I mean, sometimes.
Bob Slydell: Well, what would ya’ say… you do here
Eileen: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the goddamn commissioner so the departments don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with people!!! Can't you understand that?!? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?
Finneran, who is basically the modern-day version of Erin Dreyer, really doesn’t do anything in City Hall; or at least no official capacity that her staff couldn’t or doesn’t handle in her absence. Her position by its very nature is the ultimate in redundancy, seeing as though both of the departments she presides over have very well-paid chiefs, who should theoretically be more than capable of running their respective departments.
So what exactly does Finneran do with her 40 hours at city hall? Well, that’s the $66,000 question. Last week, the Saratogian reported
a list of duties that fell to Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim’s “executive assistant,” who was the only person laid off by the council after all the bluster about cutting nearly two dozen Public Safety jobs.
The executive assistant answered phones for Kim’s office, screened and directed calls, scheduled interdepartmental meetings and compiled the agenda items prior to council meetings. These tasks now fall to other public safety workers, such as the senior account clerk or the code administrative assistant and accounts payable clerk, according to the report; “everything else” will fall to Finneran.
Now for some background: Finneran is perhaps the least-qualified employee to grace the public safety office. She replaced Frank Dudla, a retired state corrections officer who served nearly three years in the department. Finneran’s only connection to public safety was that she served two years on the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is casually related to code enforcement.
Her first brush
with public safety came when Kim tried to hire her as a second deputy after first taking office in 2006. Kim realized he couldn’t dispatch Dudla, who was a popular choice for deputy, so he decided the city could use a second. He argued the move was to improve code enforcement efforts and carry out his legislative agenda. Naturally, the city council told him to screw off, and Finneran eventually landed a gig as deputy mayor; a position she was equally unqualified for.
Finneran highlighted her abject incompetence in 2007, when she led a futile push to get Mayor Valerie Keehn re-elected. Just a week before the election, she lambasted Independence Party candidate Gordon Boyd, who rightly predicted the state VLT funding would one day expire. In castigating Boyd in an op-ed piece published in the Saratogian, she noted that “the city’s financial condition is anything but dire.
The Amazing Kreskin
There was a gleaming hope that the 2007 election would sweep Finneran out of city hall once and for all. But instead, she found a way to burrow into the public safety department as Kim’s deputy. In making the appointment, Kim said Finneran would “focus on broader issues of legislation” and other Democratic-oriented subjects.
Translation: She’s a political operative who spends her time ensuring her
clique of Democrats maintains its stranglehold on the party. Case in point: The 2008 coup she helped orchestrate with the so-called Democrats for Change. During a weekday last July, Finneran spent her morning milling about at the county Board of Elections in Ballston Spa; an area that may or may not have public safety issues, but none that involved the city of Saratoga Springs. Still, Finneran saw it fit to spend a good portion of her tax-funded shift at the board jotting down the order of candidates for the city’s Democratic Committee.
Finneran, a charter-change proponent, has also taken a shine to attending meetings about changing the city’s form of government, albeit during off-work hours. This isn’t to say she wouldn’t show up at such a meeting if one was scheduled during her shift. There was plenty of speculation the mayor’s office was leading the charge for the failed charter revision push in 2006; Finneran, of course, was the deputy of that office and was never shy about her drive to change the city’s form of government.
So the city dismissed an executive assistant so that they didn’t need to dismiss a political hack that spends her time exacting a partisan agenda instead of ensuring her department’s bloated budgets aren’t growing at an out-of-control pace. Is it any wonder why police overtime reached record levels last year and is on pace to do the same this year?
Voters should take all this to heart as the political season revs up this fall. There’s a very good chance Finneran will return as the city’s deputy mayor if Kim is successful in his campaign against incumbent Republican Scott Johnson. And if he’s not, she’ll have at least one other option in city hall.
Kevin Connolly, a programmer and auditor for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, is likely a front runner in the public safety commisioner’s race, seeing as though he’s running against Republican Richard Wirth, who Kim beat like a gong during the 2007 election. For those who are unfamiliar with Connolly, he was one the Keehn Administration’s appointees to the charter revision committee; he was also a foot soldier in her failed re-election bid. And he’s a card-carrying member
of the so-called Democrats for Change. Care to give a guess who he’ll appoint as his deputy if Kim is unsucessful in his bid for Mayor?
Ideally, the city council will look at the public safety deputy’s seat the next time they’re considering employee cuts, which are virtually inevitable next fall. This year, city officials offered a stop-gap solution to raising taxes by raiding the fund balance. They won’t have this luxury by the fall, when they’ll need to find away to replace or cut $3.5 million from the 2010 budget. So it’s about time to start listening to the Bobs. Let’s start by cutting the one position that does nothing. The city council did it in 2005, and they could do it again today. Finneran’s salary won’t solve the budget woes, but it’s a goddamn good start.