Council approves resolution to authorize Hatzenbuhler to sign Merendo contract

The Amsterdam Common Council voted Tuesday evening to approve a resolution authorizing Deputy Mayor and 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler or the City Clerk to sign a contract with Golf Pro Joe Merendo should Mayor Ann Thane refuse to do so.

Previously, the common council had passed resolutions authorizing the mayor to sign contracts with Merendo and Golf Concessionaire Laura Elmendorf. The mayor vetoed both resolutions, but the vetoes were later overridden.

Hatzenbuhler cited the opinion of former Corporation Counsel Robert Going and his prior experience on a charter revision committee as the basis of her stance that the common council could authorize the signing of the contract by a person other than the mayor.

The debate began with a resolution concerning the contract for Elmendorf.

With regards to signing the contract, Hatzenbuhler said, “This is a ministerial duty, nothing more…we can do it by resolution.”

“No you can’t,” countered 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman, citing her own consultation with another lawyer, “the problem is, we’re overstepping our bounds.”

1st Ward Alderman Ed Russo called for tabling the resolution, which was approved 3-2 with 5th Ward Alderman Anthony Leggerio and 3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone voting no.

On the second resolution, concerning the contract for Merendo, Russo again called for tabling the resolution, but this time, Hatzenbuhler sided with Leggerio and Barone to vote no, defeating the motion.

Council members then approved the resolution 4-1 with Beekman casting the lone no vote.

The debate over the power to approve the two contracts centered around the interpretation of Article III, Section C-29 F of the City Charter which states that the common council has the power to “award all public contracts, subject to applicable law.”

Corporation Counsel Gerald DeCusatis stated that the original intent of that section was to address “public works” contracts and did not take away the executive power of the mayor to sign contracts.

“You can’t – by resolution – take away my executive powers,” stated Thane, “it would have to be by referendum.”

At one point both DeCusatis and Hatzenbuhler agreed that “we have a dispute.”

After the meeting, when asked what would happen if someone other than the mayor put their signature on Merendo’s contract, DeCusatis replied, “It’s hard to predict.”

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Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

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