On Friday, Oct. 27, three days after longtime housing authority director Gerard Zabala was fired, Mayor Valerie Keehn threw her weight behind Acting Director Ed Spychalski as Zabala's official replacement.
Whenever possible, I believe that public agencies should promote qualified individuals from within the organization, Keehn said in a prepared statement. "In the case of Mr. Spychalski, I am convinced that he is highly qualified by his many years of service to the Housing Authority."
In her endorsement, directed to Lee Weiser, chairman of the housing authority, Keehn wrote, "Because of the availability of such a highly qualified candidate, it is not advisable for the board to consider any other candidates that do not possess equally impressive credentials."
The position became officially available three days earlier, when the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority board of commissioners voted to fire Zabala, who hasn't worked since taking medical leave June 26. Since then, Spychalski, a project manager at the agency, has taken up his duties. Nearly two months after his medical leave, Zabala tendered his resignation.
Although some of the nearly 50 residents of the federally subsidized housing authority attending a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 24, said they support Spychalski's appointment, they said they fear that Zabala's successor will be a political appointment.
The Rev. John Rice, who was asked to speak for several housing authority residents at the press conference, said the tenants have felt as though they are being kept in the dark while the board undergoes its search for a new director.
Other citizens of Saratoga Springs have shown their support for Spychalski by putting together a petition of nearly 90 signatures calling for him to serve as the new director.
Weiser said the board has delayed its search until legal issues regarding Zabala's employment were resolved.
Zabala sued the housing authority in state Supreme Court last month, seeking $542,134 in back pay, sick time and damages. While the suit is pending, the board said that Zabala has used up all of his sick time and vacation for the year.