NO BEDBUGS FOR SOME FOLKS

Section: Opinion,  Page: A8

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

THE ISSUE:


The problems for Saratoga Springs's public housing director go beyond unsanitary conditions for tenants.


THE STAKES:


Where are this man's priorities?





Oh, where to start? Back in the summer, perhaps, when Edward Spychalksi, director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, was so dismissive of the danger posed by an outbreak of bedbugs at the Stonequist Apartments.


Or maybe in December, when Mr. Spychalksi said there were bedbugs in just six of the 176 apartments at the Stonequist. Or earlier this month, with the admission that it's more like 18 apartments that are infested.


Answers there could offer some helpful context to the most pressing question of all. That is, would life be a bit better for low- and moderate-income Stonequist residents, living with an infestation that brings about allergic reactions, secondary infections, stress, anxiety and general discomfort, if Mr. Spychalksi were more concerned about them and less interested in the little fiefdom he's established?


It's suddenly easier to see why he might be so detached from the folks in public housing -- remember how aghast he was that their apartments tend to be full of used furniture? -- when it turns out that he's making $152,000 a year in a job that paid his predecessor just $71,600 barely five years ago. A paycheck like that puts Mr. Spychalski ahead of Steve Longo, who makes $138,480 for running the much bigger Albany Housing Authority. It operates 1,800 units, compared with 339 units in Saratoga Springs.


At $152,000, Mr. Spychalski also makes more than an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development ($143,000), which provides funding for local housing authorities across the country, and is creeping upon the salary of a deputy secretary at HUD ($177,000).


Mr. Spychalski also had other people on his mind besides the Stonequist tenants. He has hired both his son, Johnathan, and his daughter, Nina Krupski, since he was promoted to the top job at the housing authority in 2006.


His son's employment presents a particularly difficult situation. (Not as menacing as bedbugs, of course, but troubling all the while.) The Saratoga Springs Civil Service Commission says that Mr. Spychalski promoted Johnathan Spychalski from laborer to head of security in violation of the state law that requires commission approval of such moves.


That's a problem that has caught the attention of, among others, the people at HUD. Agency spokesman Adam Glantz says HUD has rules about potential conflicts of interest. He also points to the housing authority's obligation to provide "decent, safe and sanitary housing in return for federal funding."


That makes two quite serious, not to mention overlapping, issues that need timely resolution in Saratoga Springs.


Patsy Berrigan, secretary of the city's Civil Service Commission, has called a meeting for next week -- Friday, Jan. 20 -- to discuss Johnathan Spychalski's employment status. He could be demoted back to laborer.


We'll be watching that meeting, of course -- as we're wondering what's become of the bedbug infestation that Edward Spychalski first was informed of six months ago. How bad will it be then?