Spa City candidates wrangle in lively forum

— Wirth said he’s worked in other forms of government and understands how both work; with the population of Saratoga Springs, though, the current form of government is better suited.

“This government works, in my opinion. It’s civil and it works,” said Wirth.

Madigan said she believes that voters have the right to bring the issue to ballot for a vote. Ivins said he voted to allow the public to vote on the issue but is not convinced Saratoga Citizen’s charter proposal would solve issues.

“In fact, it ignores a lot of those issues I believe need to be addressed,” said Ivins.

Citizens wanted to know candidates’ stance on the use of outside counsel for litigation and union negotiations.

Johnson said he stands by and defends his choices to use outside counsel for various situations. With regard to union negotiations, outside counsel was a responsible decision to save the city money.

“Every savings we can effectuate through better negotiations is a service to the taxpayer and city in general,” said Johnson.

Johnson dismissed allegations that his department had overspent its budget for outside legal fees.

“My first year in office, 2008, I came in from a predecessor with $235,000 for outside services to spend if needed; I spent $82,000 of that amount compared to a spending of $93,000 by my predecessor,” said Johnson. “The next year [2009] I spent $183,000 on a budget of $175,000. Why the excess? Because we had a number of suits facing the city at that time. We had a DEC investigation over an oil spill at the west side garage that cost $60,000 alone in legal fees.”

Despite alleging Johnson overspent the budget for outside legal counsel, Wilkes said the city hasn’t fulfilled FOIL requests to review paid invoices for legal services that used outside counsel. He also said Johnson “not listening” is what lead to lawsuits and a need for counsel.

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