Mayor Valerie Keehn and Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue have both released memos to the rest of the Saratoga Springs City Council regarding the increased breaches of order during council meetings, as well as the expected conduct of public officials at those meetings.
At the year's first council meeting, held Wednesday, Jan. 3, David Bronner took to the microphone during the public comment period to criticize McTygue's performance as head of the public works department. McTygue responded, and the exchange escalated as it has in past meetings.
This time, however, Keehn attempted to quell the argument by calling the rest of the council to her office to speak privately for five minutes, in order to reconvene when we can act like grown-ups.
McTygue and Bronner continued their exchange, until the mayor spoke privately to Bronner.
In a later interview, McTygue said he did not join the rest of the council in the rear chamber of the meeting room because it would have constituted an illegal meeting.
Keehn called McTygue's reasoning "convenient," and said she was not calling an official meeting. "It was just a recess to gain control."
McTygue also said that the mayor has little control over the meetings and even less so when someone is advocating her agenda. Bronner has been an outspoken supporter of the mayor's charter revision effort and an outspoken critic of McTygue, who is strongly opposed to changing the commission style of government.
"The mayor needs to control those meetings," he said. "The problem is, when someone is attacking me, she doesn't stop them."
McTygue said the mayor adheres to a loose time constraint for some speakers during the public comment period, but to no constraint at all for others. He noted that the public comment period is supposed to last only 15 minutes but has extended to 30 minutes or more on some occasions. Those who share the same views as the mayor, or wish to criticize McTygue or the Department of Public Works, he said, are usually given free reign at the microphone.