July 24, 2024

Troy Comptroller walks out during Q1 finance presentation – Troy Record

Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello, Corporation Counsel Dana Salazar, Deputy Mayor Seamus Donnelly and Comptroller Dylan Spring presenting to the City Council Wednesday night. (Erica Bouska – MediaNews Group file)

TROY, N.Y. — After about 20 minutes of questions and conversations while presenting the Quarter 1 financial report for the City of Troy, the comptroller walked out of the Thursday night council meeting.

Before tackling the night’s agenda, the city’s Comptroller, Dylan Spring, Mayor Carmella Mantello and Deputy Mayor Seamus Donnelly came forward to present the Quarter 1 financial report.

There was a bit of confusion at first on whether it could or should happen; according to Council President Sue Steele, a Democrat, the council only received the report five minutes before the meeting started and had not had time to look through it. Republican Majority Leader Tom Casey said they had had enough time and should allow the comptroller to proceed with his presentation.

It moved forward, though the council asked Spring to be present at a special finance meeting on July 11 to go over the report in more detail. Mantello began the presentation as Spring returned to his office briefly to get materials for the presentation; Mantello said the council had received the report 30 minutes before.

It would have been nice to have it earlier, Mantello said, but it wasn’t done yet. Being finished in mid-June is in line with previous years’ deadlines, she said, which Steele disputed, clarifying on Friday that the report was not late but the council was always given it with proper time before meetings.

Spring’s presentation ran through the revenues and expenditures of the city, highlighting discrepancies or numbers that might look odd but had explanations. While working through it, he fielded questions from City Council members on everything from what line item City Hall rent falls under to how many buildings the city had demolished in Quarter 1.

Several times Spring responded to questions with “I’d have to get back to you on that,” or “I don’t know off the top of my head, I’m sorry.” It was acknowledged by Spring and the council members asking questions that they were almost all new.

About 20 minutes into Spring’s presentation, he finished answering a question about a line item from Councilmember Katie Spain McLaren, a Democrat, who ended her question by apologizing and saying she was “new at this.” Steele then said, “So is he.”

“You don’t have to keep stabbing me, Council President,” Spring responded during the meeting covered on the livestream feed, “It’s not very nice and it’s very, making me very anxious.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Steele responded. “It’s just a matter of fact.”

Spring said something indiscernible in the feed before adding, “That is also a fact so I don’t sit here and argue (more indiscernible words) (a response from Steele) … panic attack most of …”

Spring then left the room.

In more back and forth that was partially indiscernible, Councilmember Ryan Brosnan, a Republican, said something relating to Steele’s decorum, Steele apologized and Mantello said Spring is new and to “have some compassion, have some respect.”

She continued and said Spring had asked them to work together. Steele responded she had asked for this presentation to be delayed. Brosnan then made a motion to enter into a brief recess.

The presentation did not continue after coming back, and the council moved forward with the agenda after Steele again apologized for any misunderstanding and that her comment was not interpreted the way she meant it.

“My point was to acknowledge that Dylan (Spring) is also new and that we have to be understanding of all new people,” she said. “There are no dumb questions, there are no dumb answers, we are just trying to get information.”

They will resume the presentation in July.

This is not the first clash the council president has had with the city administration over finances. Steele said previously that the Q1 report was due April 30 and when she requested it on May 1, was told it was not finished.

At the May finance meeting, the council went over reports from 2023 Q4, with Spring and contract-hired accounting firm ProNexus detailing the major problems with the city’s record-keeping system. They also said then that they would go over the Q1 report on June 20, which was Thursday’s cut-short meeting.

Spring has often expressed his frustration and the tremendous workload he is holding due to the city’s outdated system and his hiring in February, saying during one finance meeting that he was working more than 60 hours a week. Donnelly said Friday they are concerned that their employees have an adequate work/life balance.

He couldn’t speak for Spring about his feelings Thursday night but said that they are currently overhauling every department, including the comptroller’s, and once finished, they believe the system will run much smoother and get rid of those 60-hour weeks. That process will be finished before the work on the 2025 budget begins, which Donnelly said the administration is very excited about.

The presentation Thursday was at its conclusion when Spring left, Donnelly said, and all questions had been answered. However, Steele on Friday, said that without adequate time to review it and formulate questions, the presentation had been frivolous and uninformative.

She questioned why exactly the presentation had to happen on Thursday when she had asked to have it moved to July. Though she said she was sympathetic to Spring who seemed overwhelmed, from a professional standpoint, she was concerned at the lack of information and his inability to answer questions.

“It’s ‘I’ll get back to you on that, I’ll get back to you on that.’ Well, you know, he must’ve said that a dozen times, and after a while, I mean, there was no point in, in the presentation quite frankly,” Steele said Friday, also saying she has never seen a department head walk out of a meeting. “When we asked a question, we didn’t get an answer.

“This is very troubling if indeed he is under too much pressure now because we are going into a very critical phase of the fiscal year,” she continued, mentioning that budget preparations are upcoming. “He should’ve been prepared to give the report.”

Donnelly said they wanted to give the report that day because it was important to Mantello to provide the council with their findings, having held the council president seat for eight years prior. He also said that people have to remember, they’re not even six months into this administration and they’re doing a major revamp.

“The comptroller is a high-stress job,” Donnelly said. “It (the comptroller’s office) is adequately staffed and we are constantly reviewing and looking how to make it better…It’s not all just ‘Let’s hire more people,’ it’s how can we, how can we best serve the public with what we have and with changing the way some things are done.”

Donnelly also said that Steele’s comments were not helpful to the already high-stress Spring was under. Steele again apologized Friday for her comment about Spring being new and said it wasn’t an insult, just a comment on how it’s okay that everyone is new.

As far as the actual finances go, Donnelly said the numbers Spring presented showed how they are able to do so much in the city with much less. Steele said she had no comment yet on the numbers because she hadn’t had a chance to go through them.

A look at the Hedley Building, which is where Troy City Hall is located. (Nicholas Buonanno - MediaNews Group)
A look at the Hedley Building, which is where Troy City Hall is located. (Nicholas Buonanno – MediaNews Group)

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