Charges Grow As Bed Bug Probe Spreads
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Saratoga Springs Housing Authority director meets with
Civil Service Commission on Friday over the promotion of his
son, a federal spokesman said housing officials were probing how
the director's children were hired. Also, residents of Stonequist
Apartments say the director - Ed Spychalski - has turned the city's
public housing into his own realm through intimidation
Public housing tenants in Saratoga Springs accuse Spychalski of
abuse of power and neglecting his responsibilities as authority
director. They say he failed to take meaningful and timely steps to
remove bed bugs from the Stonequist high-rise building, and pinned
the problem on them. They describe a housing community whose
members are pitted against one another and divided into camps:
Those with bed bugs and those without; those who Ed Spychalski
favors and those he does not.
"He's on a power trip," Marine Corps veteran and Stonequist
David Wright II said Thursday. "He needs to go. It's the only
way things can get solved around here."
Spychalski, 52, became housing director in 2006 at a salary of
$74,000. He now receives $152,000 a year to administer 339 rental
units, including the 176 apartments at Stonequist, where his office
is located. Tenants told him in July that bed bugs had infested
parts of the 176-unit building.
The bed bugs and Spychalski's response to them have spread to
other criticisms of the director, and the revelation he promoted
his son, Johnathan, from laborer to a security job in violation of
Civil Service rules. The director also hired his daughter,
Johnathan Spychalski faces demotion to laborer at a meeting
with the commission Friday. He is identified as head security guard
or security guard in authority newsletters.
The city's housing authority is funded by the U.S. Department
Housing and Urban Development and governed by a
Board of Commissioners, five of whom are appointed by the
mayor. Two are public housing residents elected by
Adam Glantz, regional spokesman for HUD, said HUD regulations
prohibit the hiring of family members without a special waiver from
the authority's board of commissioners. He said HUD recently wrote
a letter to the
Saratoga Springs board inquiring about nepotism hirings, and if
the board had issued waivers. HUD awaits a response,
It's not known who approved Ed Spychalski's son and daughter for
jobs. Neither he nor board chairman
Dennis Brunelle returned calls for comment. Brunelle apparently
supports Ed Spychalski's salary. He told The
Daily Gazette last week that the board had "no problem" with
it, and Spychalski might, in fact, be underpaid.
Wright, 41, served in the 1990 Gulf War and Somalia. He smashed
his knee in tank training and is disabled. He rarely sleeps in his
apartment because it was invaded by bed bugs in the fall. Wright,
who is unemployed and has worked as a park ranger, said he is upset
the security job at Stonequist wasn't made available through
advertising and testing. "The security job would have been perfect
for me," he said.
This week, Ed Spychalski also faced criticism from city Accounts
John Franck, who blasted the director's handling of the bed
bugs, and the authority's board, which awarded Ed Spychalski
raises. Franck demanded a public meeting with
Al McKenney, a 67-year-old retired musician, said he was forced
to throw out his mattress and furniture around Thanksgiving because
bed bugs had entered his apartment in Stonequist. He slept on his
floor for weeks. "My life is still not back to normal at all,"
McKenney said this week. "A couple times, I stayed at a motel, and
I can't afford that."
Housing authority employees refused to allow Wright to have his
apartment treated and blamed the insects on "dumpster diving" by
tenants, the former Marine said. He made an audio recording of what
he said was his third request for help from officials after he
found bed bugs in his room. Spychalski posted a bulletin in
Stone-quist saying there could be a $50 rent increase to address
the bed bug problem, which inflamed tensions among tenants, tenants
said. Stonequist tenants sign leases with fixed and federally
subsidized rents. State tenant law requires landlords to address
HUD provides the Saratoga Springs authority $1 million a year in
operating expenses and $407,000 annually for capital improvements.
Maintenance workers recently started treating units for bed bugs,
the authority's attorney,
Scott Peterson, said. They are spreading powder, Wright and
"These bed bugs are coming through the walls, the heaters and
around the holes where the plumbing pipes are," Wright said. "I'm
sick of the bites and the stress of dealing with the bed bugs, and
a building manager and landlord that does not care."
Ed Spychalski did not return calls for a response. "I cannot
comment on the management style of my client,"