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Saranac Lake Village Board passes resolutions to further investigate altercation between mayor and former village manager

Saranac Lake welcome sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Saranac Lake welcome sign

The Saranac Lake village board is considering several actions after an altercation between the mayor and now ex-village manager in July.

On July 11, the Saranac Lake Village Police received a report on a verbal and physical altercation between two city workers.

At its latest meeting, the village board voted on two resolutions concerning a police report on the incident. One authorizes the village clerk to release a redacted report, which passed unanimously, and the second resolution, which passed on a 3 to 2 vote, condemned the unauthorized release of the incident report.

After attempts to obtain it through the Freedom of Information law, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise received it from an anonymous source.

In a July 28th interview with WAMC, Enterprise reporter Aaron Marbone said it detailed an incident between Saranac Lake Mayor Jimmy Williams and then-village manager Eric Stender.

“It says it started off as a verbal disagreement inside their joint office in the Town Hall. They had been kind of shouting back and forth a little bit when Stender said that he was going to leave. When he left he claims that Williams followed him out and grabbed him, pushed him up against the wall by his throat. There are multiple accounts of what happened from eyewitnesses within the Town Hall, other village employees. They paint a couple different pictures.”

Stender quit following the incident.

The village board unanimously passed a resolution that “authorizes an independent, third-party review” of the incident. Trustee Richard Shapiro supported the measure.

“The incident occurred, it was like six weeks now, and in all that time the mayor has never denied the allegation. He goes around by saying oh we were just blowing off steam, just two people disagreeing. But he’s never denied the allegation that was made that he put his hand on the village manager’s throat. And when the police were investigating this, the village manager made a sworn statement on the penalty of perjury, two witnesses made sworn statements under penalty of perjury. The mayor declined to come down to the police station to make such a statement. You can read into it what you wish.”

The resolution calling for an independent review of the incident between the mayor and former village manager also calls for a review and suggested updates to the village’s workplace violence policy. While not necessarily related, Shapiro is also concerned about the rate of turnover of village employees.

"When the new administration took over a year ago April, not quite a year and a half yet, there had been 10 people working in the village office. Eight of those 10 have gone plus two more that were hired by the new administration left. Granted two of those that left retired. But others were forced out, left on their own volition, did not want to work in the environment in which they found themselves. We’ve lost a huge amount of institutional knowledge and it’s difficult getting some things done.”

A fourth resolution called for all members of the village board to sign statements that they were not involved in the unauthorized release of the police report. The measure failed on a 3 to 2 vote.

Reached by WAMC for comment, Mayor Williams declined to speak about the incident.