CARS HOMES JOBS

Amsterdam council, mayor at impasse over golf course

Monday, February 3, 2014
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— A dispute over management of the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course is creating an impasse between the Common Council and the mayor.

Mayor Ann Thane wants to bring fresh leadership to the city-owned course and the Common Council wants to maintain the status quo.

Thane refuses to sign Council-approved contracts for longtime golf pro Joe Merendo — who sued the city last fall when it notified him his contract had expired — and for Laura Elmendorf, who runs the bar and restaurant.

In the face of Thane’s refusal to sign the contracts, the Common Council is now looking to change the city’s contract approval process.

The council will consider a resolution at this week’s meeting calling for either the city clerk or the city controller to sign the contracts instead of the mayor.

Gerard DeCusatis, the city’s corporation counsel, declined to comment on the impasse Monday. He did say he’s unaware of a similar instance in which a test of the powers of the mayor and Common Council reached this point.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said she believes municipal boards counter the wishes of municipal CEOs often “all over the country.”

She said signing these contracts is a “ministerial duty” that doesn’t necessarily rest in the hands of the mayor. “Anybody can do it.”

Hatzenbuhler said she can only expect Thane will veto the resolution calling for the clerk or controller to sign the contracts.

Thane on Monday said the council can’t make up its own rules. “I am given that authority per the charter,” she said.

She said in order for the Common Council to strip the mayor of contract-signing authority, it would have to obtain public approval in a referendum to change the city’s charter.

“I think it’s disturbing that they are ignoring the interests of the city over special interests,” Thane said.

Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero said the city government faced a similar situation in 2010, but it never got this far.

Back then, the council sought to institute a hiring freeze. The council passed a resolution, the mayor vetoed it and then the council overrode the veto, he said. But no hiring freeze ever followed, he said.

Instead of waiting for a similar outcome this time, Leggiero said the council’s plan is to get another city official to sign the contracts.

He said he’s unaware of a dispute between the mayor and Common Council going this far. “It was never a continued grudge match,” he said.

He said the dispute has progressed to the point where everybody’s watching to see “who’s going to break first.”

He said the issue is distracting the city government from real problems that should be addressed.

“We’ve got more important things to talk about and take care of,” Leggiero said. “What I would say is let’s get over it and put it behind us.”

The Common Council is scheduled to meet at 7 Tuesday evening.

 
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