Council eyes a power play

Proposed ordinance would wrest control of golf commission


Amsterdam's four Republican aldermen have proposed an ordinance that strips all powers from the mayor and recreation director when it comes to the city's Golf Commission.

"[Second Ward Alderwoman] Valerie Beekman is more than welcome to join us," 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said of the council's lone Democrat, "but we are going to be overseeing and working with the individuals who are up at the golf course."

That includes golf professional Joseph Merendo, course superintendent James Derrick, and concessionaire Laura Elmendorf, Hatzenbuhler said.

The councilmen have expressed their dissatisfaction with the golf commission after it recommended a golf professional to replace Merendo. The council recently passed a resolution that forced the commission's chairman to step down because he is not a city resident.

The newest proposed ordinance would remove every instance that gives Mayor Ann Thane or recreation director Robert Spagnola authority at the course.

Hatzenbuhler said this is so the council can see "first hand what's going on up there."

"So that we can work with Joe, with Jim and with Laura to move forward and make the golf course operational," Hatzenbuhler said. "You can hold us responsible."

The first proposed change addresses the council's liaison to the commission. Currently, the person is selected by the mayor, but under the proposed ordinance, the liaison would be chosen by the Common Council.

It stipulates the other five commissioners must be dues-paying golf course members, residents of the city, and also appointed by the council.

"The people that will be appointed to the golf commission will be golfers that live in the city limits, and they will be people that are not hand-picked," Hatzenbuhler said. "Anyone can submit their name right now."

The commissioners would serve five-year terms and when vacancies occur, the council would replace them.

The proposal says all purchases must also be approved by the aldermen.

"Why have a golf commission at all?" Thane asked; to which 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. mumbled, "good question."

"You have ignored the work of everything they have done for three years. Now you're proposing that you are going to oversee, what it seems like, executive duties," Thane said.

Hatzenbuhler said the current ordinance involving the golf commission isn't thoroughly followed.

"Even under the current golf ordinance, the golf commission works with the Common Council," Hatzenbuhler said. "The only duty of the mayor is to appoint the aldermen [as liaison]. I don't think you have read the charter. I don't think you've read the code to understand what's in there."

Thane said the commission has never had trouble making recommendations to the council, but the council hasn't listened to "a thing they have said."

"They have disregarded all of this copious documentation and work they have done," Thane said. "[The council] has never been given the courtesy of a conversation from this group. You're making all these decisions and you've never engaged in a conversation with the commission. So, why have one?"

Barone said that's fine with him, and that the council either needs to change the commission's structure, or abolish it.

"I feel that we're going in the right direction for the taxpayers, for the golf course and for this city," Hatzenbuhler said. "To do what's right and move forward."

The public will have an opportunity to address the proposed changes at a hearing in two weeks.