Former Saratoga Springs accounts clerk files suit
SARATOGA SPRINGS Mary Zlotnick, who was terminated from her clerk’s job in the Saratoga Springs Accounts Department after a hearing last year, has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court asking that her job be restored with back pay.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Mark T. Walsh of Albany against the city of Saratoga Springs and city Accounts Commissioner John Franck, was filed on April 16.
The Article 78 proceeding seeks to overturn the ruling of a hearing officer who found Zlotnick guilty of three charges of misconduct and/or insubordination that led to Zlotnick’s termination last fall.
One of the many reasons listed in the lawsuit for overturning the account clerk’s termination is that the appointed hearing officer, Christopher Nicolino, an attorney from Suffolk County, “was conflicted and should have disqualified himself when it became clear that the city was asking him to evaluate the veracity of petitoner’s testimony at the first hearing based upon only selected pages of the transcript from the first hearing.”
Nicolino was also the hearing officer for an earlier disciplinary hearing focused on Zlotnick last summer.
Zlotnick’s alleged insubordination and misconduct while on the job were the subject of a lengthy administrative hearing required prior to her termination.
Zlotnick said during the termination hearing that she believed that Assistant City Assessor Anthony Popolizio appeared to reduce the assessments on some condominiums in the city in an unfair manner. She said it appeared that Popolizio helped or “coached” businesswoman Diane Young on reducing condominium assessments for her paying clients.
This information is repeated in the lawsuit, noting again that Zlotnick never said that she believed a crime was being committed, but suspected that the way the condominium assessments were reduced for some owners and not as easily for others did not seem right.
City Accounts Commissioner Franck spent more than an hour during a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting last summer explaining to the council how the assessments of condominiums were done and rebutting Zoltnick’s allegations about possible misconduct.
The city had not been formally served with the Zlotnick lawsuit on Friday and city officials would not comment on the case.
The city had filed five charges of misconduct or insubordination against Zlotnick last summer. Zlotnick said she brought her allegations to the attention of her superiors, the city Police Department and the state Attorney General’s Office in 2012.
Zlotnick said last summer she believed that the city was aware of her complaints about the practices in the assessors office and believed they were a motivating factor in the respondents bringing the first set of disciplinary charges against her, according to the court papers. For that reason, she asserted a “whistleblower” defense according to a section of the state Civil Service Law.
The lawsuit seeks to overturn the actions taken against Zlotnick and wants an order and judgment to annul Commissioner Franck’s termination of Zlotnick and reinstate her to her position, title and grade as real property clerk “with full back pay, benefits and emoluments of employment,” according to the legal papers filed with the state Supreme Court in Saratoga County.
The lawsuit also seeks the awarding of Zlotnick’s attorney fees and costs and disbursements of the lawsuit.
Zlotnick would not discuss the lawsuit and her attorney, Walsh, did not return repeated calls for comment.