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.