Saratoga Springs city employee put on paid leave
Accounts Department clerk had complained about condominium assessments
SARATOGA SPRINGS A clerk in the city’s Accounts Department has been placed on paid leave in the wake of complaints she has made about possible irregularities in the assessment of condominiums in the city.
A disciplinary hearing was held last week in City Hall regarding allegations that Mary Zlotnick was insubordinate with her superiors. She had been placed on a one-week unpaid suspension in June, said Mark J. McCarthy, a lawyer for Harris Beach PLLC, the law firm the city hires as labor counsel.
“This hearing had nothing to do with her allegations,” McCarthy said.
Zlotnick said the disciplinary action taken against her is clearly connected with complaints she has made for more than a year about activities by the city’s assistant assessor, Anthony Popolizio, and businesswoman Diane C. Young of DCY Consultants in Malta.
Zlotnick alleges Popolizio has “coached” Young in her attempts to get the assessments of condominiums and some homes reduced. She claims Popolizio told Young, who charges a consulting fee for helping clients have their assessments reduced, “where to go and where to solicit business.”
Zlotnick’s complaints are in the hands of the state Attorney General’s office.
The recent disciplinary hearing, required by state Civil Service Law when someone is placed on leave or suspended from their job, focused on allegations that Zlotnick was insubordinate on one occasion in May, McCarthy said. No decision has yet been made regarding that issue by the outside hearing officer, Christopher Nicolino.
During the hearing, McCarthy said Zlotnick talked about her complaints and said she reported what she considered irregularities in the way condominiums were assessed by Popolizio to the state Attorney General’s office. McCarthy said Zlotnick had complained about this issue in the past and reported her complaints to city police and the state.
“She presented the charges two or three different times, going back well over a year,” McCarthy said.
She was placed on paid administrative leave by Accounts Commissioner John Franck after the hearing for statements made during the hearing, he said. Zlotnick said she was not told how long her administrative leave would be. She said she had to turn in her office key and remove personal belongings from her desk on Aug. 17.
“She doesn’t understand what she is talking about,” McCarthy said. He said the city has investigated the allegations and found them without merit.
Nevertheless, McCarthy said Franck will again review the allegations regarding what his office has done in the assessment of condominiums.
Franck would not discuss Zlotnick’s allegation or her placement on paid leave this week. Zlotnick, who has worked in the Accounts Department since December 2010, is paid $34,000 per year, according to city payroll records.
“It’s a personnel matter. I have no comment,” Franck said.
He did say a state law that has been around since the mid-1960s requires condominiums to be assessed and taxed like rental apartments. Condominiums have flourished in Saratoga Springs in the past decade, with people spending more than $1 million for some luxury units, but state law requires the units to be valued only for what they would return in rent.
Franck said this law sometimes results in condominiums being assessed at 50 to 60 percent less than their actual purchase price. He said this law has caused misunderstandings for years.
“I’m reviewing things,” Franck said about the 2011 assessments. He said he will do an internal review of the assessments and “if something is wrong it will be corrected.”
City Police Chief Christopher Cole said Zlotnick brought her complaints to his department’s attention several months ago. He said investigators reviewed the material and, “at face value,” found no illegal activity.
However, because his department does not have expertise in such matters, the complaints were turned over to the Attorney General’s office, Cole said.
The AG’s office does not comment on ongoing investigations.