At last night’s common council meeting, council members voted 4-1 (with 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman casting the lone no vote) to override Mayor Ann Thane’s veto of a resolution authorizing 4th Ward Alderwoman and Deputy Mayor Diane Hatzenbuhler to sign a contract for golf pro Joe Merendo if the mayor refuses.
Before the vote, Thane referred to a letter from her attorney Paul J. Goldman of Goldman Attorneys PLLC of Albany which was delivered to council members earlier in the day.
Thane said to the Hatzenbuhler, “If you attempt to sign the lease agreement, it is an illegal act and you open yourself up to legal action. And I would caution that we are having a meeting with the golf pro later this week, so I would not be precipitous in your actions.”
The letter from Goldman advised that the common council could not “circumvent the Mayor’s express statutory authority to negotiate and approve a contract” for Merendo.
The letter went on to say:
Quite simply, the Common Council has no power to independently negotiate or enter into a contract on behalf of the City of Amsterdam without the express approval of the Mayor. The subject contract states that the Common Council seeks to lease property at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, specifically the Pro Shop and storage sheds. The Common Council had no power to negotiate any contract with Mr. Merendo and the Mayor’s approval is specifically required for such lease or use of the City’s real property under GCL §23(2)(b). The veto by the Mayor cannot be undone by further action of the Common Council in violation of GCL §23(2)(b). Accordingly, the current attempt, and any future attempts, of the Common Council to override the Mayor’s veto constitute illegal and ultra vires actions. Therefore, the execution and delivery of the subject agreement by the Deputy Mayor is a nullity. Please take this letter as notice that the Mayor will exercise those statutory powers expressly reserved to the Mayor under both the Charter and applicable law.
When asked by 1st Ward Alderman Ed Russo if the mayor made use of city funds allowed for under the budget in order to obtain the opinion, Thane said yes and countered that she is trying to save the taxpayers money.
Members of the common council have contended that the signing of the contract constitutes a “ministerial duty” of the mayor and that any city official could be authorized to sign it. Members have cited the legal advisement of former corporation council Robert Going as the basis for their actions.