Open Letter to Commissioner Montagnino

To Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner, Jim Montagnino:

You must resign.

On February 7th, during the public comment period of a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, you were challenged by Chandler Hickenbottom, a Saratoga BLM leader and longtime member of our community. Chandler challenged your failure to hold a public forum on police abuse and the need for reform in Saratoga Springs after three years of public demands.

She challenged your failure to implement the vast majority of the city’s 50-point plan for police reinvention. She challenged the city’s consideration of two officers involved in Darryl Mount’s death and the ensuing cover-up, and another officer involved in the school-to-prison pipeline which has harmed so many Saratoga Springs children, for the role of police chief. These issues are emblematic of the corruption of the SSPD, a matter being investigated by the NYS Attorney General.

Despite your habit of interrupting your fellow city council members, and allowing white residents to speak out of turn at city council meetings without consequences, you refuse to be challenged by a Black woman. You used procedural technicalities as an excuse to suppress dissent while you and your fellow city officials voted to adjourn the meeting – multiple times.

The elected leaders of Saratoga Springs refusing to hear the demands of its activists and the larger Black community is not new. You did not create this problem, nor did you innovate its racist tactics. The previous city council attempted similarly to punish activists from Saratoga Black Lives Matter for speaking out. Then, as now, we believe elected officials who refuse dissent are unfit to serve.

Because she challenged you, Chandler was arraigned in the Saratoga Springs City Court on March 7th for a criminal complaint that you filed against her – an action that your fellow council members have condemned. You requested she be charged with disorderly conduct, and that an order of protection intended to instill fear and chill her exercise of free speech. This order of protection would essentially bar Chandler from all future City Council meetings – a clear attempt to silence her. Thankfully, the judge rejected the baseless claim. However, Chandler still faces your cowardly, racially motivated disorderly conduct charge.

We have known you are unwilling to change Saratoga Springs’s racist police force or criminal justice system for some time now. We now know you are unwilling to accept critique, or even respect free speech rights of those who demand change for the better.

On behalf of our membership in Saratoga Springs and throughout the Capital Region: you are unfit to serve. You must resign.