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Proceedings begin for lawsuit against Common Council

FONDA – One of two restraining orders in Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane’s lawsuit against the city’s Common Council remains in effect, while one defendant named in the suit is off the hook.

Thane sued the aldermen, city Controller Matthew Agresta and golf professional Joseph Merendo after Deputy Mayor and 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler signed a contract with Merendo. Thane had vetoed a council resolution approving the contract and authorizing the deputy mayor or clerk to sign instead of the mayor, but the council overrode her veto, and Hatzenbuhler signed the contract.

Thursday’s session in Montgomery County Supreme Court was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but lawyers for both sides spent nearly 90 minutes in Judge Joseph Sise’s chambers.  2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman city Controller Matthew Agresta, and Thane attended the hearing. The other four council members were not present.

Thane’s lawyer, Paul Goldman, asked Sise to remove Agresta from the lawsuit. Defense lawyer Michael Brockbank agreed, saying Agresta “has no dog in this fight.” Sise released Agresta, on the condition that the controller not authorize any payments to Merendo while the case is pending. Agresta already has said he will not do that.

Two temporary restraining orders were granted when Thane filed the suit; one prohibiting the council members from signing any agreements unless the mayor is “absent or incapacitated” and the other prohibiting the aldermen from enacting an ordinance that would amend the city charter to restructure the Golf Commission. At last Tuesday’s common council meeting, the council rescinded the previous resolution authorizing another city official to sign the Merendo contract, and withdrew the ordinance.

Sise agreed with Brockbank’s assessment that the restraining order concerning the Golf Commission was “over broad” and ordered it vacated. The other remains in effect.

“Mr. Goldman, you will not be prohibited from seeking an additional temporary restraining order,” Sise said.

Sise stressed the need for a timely resolution to this case.

“The snow is melting,” he said. “The business of the city regarding the golf course is at hand.”

He ordered both sides to submit all relevant documents by Thursday, March 27.

About John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.

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