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Merendo contract signed by Hatzenbuhler, Thane promises legal action

Diane Hatzenbuhler, 4th Ward Alderwoman, says she has gone ahead and put her signature on a contract for golf pro Joe Merendo. She announced the signing at the last night’s Recreation Committee meeting. Mayor Ann Thane immediately responded by saying, “we are going to court”.

According to Controller Matthew Agresta, payments to Merendo under the contract cannot be made as long as the validity of the contract is in dispute.

At previous council meetings, Hatzenbuhler has cited former corporation counsel Robert Going’s advice that the signing of public contracts was a “ministerial duty” that could be delegated to any city official in the event that the mayor refused to sign a contract approved by the council, such as the one for Merendo.

At a council meeting on Feb 25, Thane presented an opinion from her own attorney Paul J. Goldman who advised that the common council could not “circumvent the Mayor’s express statutory authority to negotiate and approve a contract.” Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis has also advised during previous meetings that only the mayor has the authority to sign contracts under the charter.

During last night’s discussion, Thane criticized the council for not giving consideration to her multiple compromise offers on the contract, going on to say, “this is cronyism, this is misfeasance, this is a disgrace.”

3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone responded saying, “I’ve listened to this cronyism nonsense for a long time. I represent the taxpayers.” He went on to reiterate his previous offer to personally oversee operations at the golf course, citing his 50 years of being a member there.

Barone also said, “If [the mayor] wants to go to court,  good, maybe that’s where we belong…there’s a lot of things in this charter that have been jammed down prior council’s throats…well I’m not going to put up with it. If we have to go to court, we’ll go to court.”

Hatzenbuhler said that the council plans on overseeing staff members at the golf course in the coming year “so we can see first hand what’s going on there… and you can hold us responsible.”

Thane asked “why have a golf commission” given that it sounded to her that the council was seeking executive authority over the course.

Barone said “..if you want to abolish [the golf commission] totally…no problem…either put a new commission in or abolish it.”

During the common council meeting that followed, the council voted to table a resolution sponsored by the mayor that would add expense lines to the golf course budget totaling $82,500 which would allow the city to operate its own golf carts and receive revenue from their use. The resolution also contained a projected revenue figure of $82,500. Currently, the costs and revenues associated with golf cart rentals are handled by Merendo.

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About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

13 Responses to Merendo contract signed by Hatzenbuhler, Thane promises legal action

  1. rogo says:

    Lets get serious. $82,500 in revenue for 3 months (april, may and june). This is what is wrong, numbers are just made up. This comes to about $189,000 in cart revenue per year. How does that number sound Pro. If he made that each year he wouldn’t be here now!!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael Donnan says:

      According to the study by the Union College grad students the profit in the carts right now is about $70, 000 a year. That’s profit (revenue minus expenses). They included recommendations that would significantly increase the profits above and beyond that.

  2. steve says:

    mr barone i have 50 yeas of drinking pepsi so i must have the knowledge to be the ceo of pepsi. Makes total sense to me. this is comical, the arrogance of this common council.

  3. steve says:

    rogo, if the course was run properly by the head pro the numbers would be around that. you would be surprised to see how far a little effort goes. If he wasn’t making good money why is he fighting so hard to stay. all these numbers are coming from credible sources.

  4. steve says:

    why do you think he is so unwilling to show his financial numbers even though it is required in his contract. if you have a valid answer to this please inform us. how can someone who does not fulfill his contractual obligations even still have a job?

    • rogo says:

      Have you read his contract?? It says prior to awarding contract (2009) he shall show balance sheet and income statement, I believe mayor has income statement (she stated he made $12,000 after paying expenses and help) and if not it was her fault for not doing her job. Are these required by shuttlewoth (signage) and riverlink (boats)??? What credible source can you get info from that is public knowledge??? Do you understand that muni has privately owned carts???

      • Rob Millan says:

        Rogo,
        Correction: the Pro is obligated by the contract to present his numbers; not the mayor or anyone else demanding it of him. It is also not ‘the mayor’s fault’ for not asking for it.

        Also, neither Shuttleworth nor Riverlink have anything to do with the Golf Course. Most people know this, and it seems the only people who continue to draw this illogical conclusion are the ones interested in ‘saving’ Mr. Merendo’s job (ie Hatzenbuhler: ‘This one’s for Joe’).

        For about the tenth time now: not one of Mr. Merendo’s supporters have been able to think of any reason in support of why he should be allowed to keep his contract other than ‘he’s a good guy.’

  5. Michael says:

    “According to Controller Matthew Agresta, payments to Merendo under the contract cannot be made as long as the validity of the contract is in dispute.”

    Lets see how the GOP council navigate this little statement …time for another bowl of popcorn.

    • rogo says:

      That is if mayor uses her own money or taxpayer money to persue court battle in which the city and taxpayers lose either way!!!

      • Rob Millan says:

        Rogo,
        Once again you continue to conveniently ignore the line that was budgeted for for legal fees, the same line that’s for the Common Council to use.
        You positively cannot say the ‘taxpayers lose’ for the mayor using this money without also saying the same for the council.

  6. Michael says:

    So let me get this straight ..if she uses her own money and wins the taxpayers lose….how? If the Judge orders the city to pay her legal fees then you might have a case ..but the overall problem will have been resolved.

  7. Pat Q says:

    I think it’s a shame a well thought out plan for the golf course was not developed and presented to the council. It seemed that the main interest was to end Merendo’s employment and take on cart rentals. Mechanisms used were an obsolete and out of date MBA project, a flawed RFP procedure, and then the refusal to sign an approved contract. With proper accountability, transparency and a fact based comprehensive plan (operations, marketing and maintenance); the Mayor and the Golf Commission may have been able to move the golf course forward.

    It now seems that the Mayor has lost in the court of public opinion. Moving forward in court will only make things worse, regardless of the outcome. The best course at this point is for the commission to carry out their duties, part of which are golf course operations. Reaching out to the local colleges for an updated strategic plan may also provide helpful information. Municipal golf courses nationwide are facing declining enrollments. Firing Merendo is not going to change this economic reality.

    And I think Matthew Agresta should be focusing on the accounting software, finance fund balances and bank recons. Or are those all caught up now?

    • Tim Becker says:

      Pat, I’m not sure why you brought up the controller, suggesting that he is not concentrating on the right things. But just to clarify, I specifically asked Matt after the meeting if he would issue checks under the new contract. I reported his response and I think it is very relevant to the issue.

      To me, he does not appear to me to be taking sides in any of the issues that are coming before the council, he is simply there at the meetings to provide accurate information so that the members can make informed decisions.

      At every meeting, he’s given a status report on the state of the reconciliations. There’s never been all that much to report – the hired accountants are doing their jobs and making progress.

      So I’m not sure why you would suggest he has the wrong focus here?