Divisions emerge over charge filed against Saratoga Black Lives Matter member

Saratoga Springs City Council remained divided Thursday over a criminal charge filed by one of its members.

Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino filed a criminal complaint Wednesday against a leader of Saratoga Black Lives Matter after a City Council meeting was adjourned earlier in the month, as first reported by NewsChannel 13. Montagnino asked police to issue a summons.

Saratoga Black Lives Matter is responding to the criminal complaint against one of their members, Chandler Hickenbottom. Members of the group said they do not believe this is an appropriate response to the back-and-forth between them and the city.

The request for a summons comes after activists disrupted a meeting of the City Council earlier this month. They said Montagnino made upsetting comments.

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Three members of the council said getting police involved fans the flames of mistrust between Saratoga Black Lives Matter and the city. In three statements put out together, the commissioners of finance, accounts and public works called Montagnino’s actions a “criminalization of speech” and condemned the actions coming during Black History Month.

Commissioner of Public Works Jason Golub said in part, “Nothing is being furthered by this criminal complaint or heavy-handed approach other than furthering mistrust and continuing to fragment our community. We need to work collectively to heal old wounds…”

Mayor Ron Kim also voiced his disapproval, calling for the summons to be withdrawn. He said it could cost taxpayers, saying in part, “I condemn any outbursts by a community member at our public meetings, but I do not believe it was criminal or requires any consideration by the Courts.  This action is a misguided overreach by the Department of Public Safety which will waste our resources and could potentially lead to additional legal costs because the New York State Attorney General’s office is currently investigating the past administration for very similar actions.”  

Montagnino defended his decision. In a statement to NewsChannel 13, he said in part, “I have responded with the least intrusive alternative available: calling upon the court to intervene without interfering with Ms. Hickenbottom’s liberty. Unlawful conduct that prevents our democracy from functioning is unacceptable. […] I would welcome the application of restorative justice principles here. I am disappointed that Mayor Ron Kim, whom I consider a close personal friend, disagrees.”