By ALISSA SCOTT
The Amsterdam Municipal Golf Commission finished up interviews this week with four men seeking to be the course's new golf professional, but the interviews may have all been for nothing.
During the Amsterdam Common Council's first meeting of the year, the aldermen unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a contract with former golf professional Joseph Merendo.
"If the council has to be sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 1, and their first order of business is to pass this resolution with all the things that have gone wrong in the city ..." chairman Michael Bucciferro said, trailing off. "Maybe that's why I'm not a councilperson. I don't know if that would be the most important thing to pass Day 1."
The commission's interviews represented the tail end of a year-and-a-half-long process requested by the former Common Council to help revitalize the golf course and bring in new people. Bucciferro said the commission made a decision, but would not say who they chose.
According to the past three filed annual update documents, Amsterdam's Muni has underperformed, having had the city bail it out at least once by transferring money to the commission's account from the general fund.
The former council constructed a three-prong system to open the golf professional, concessionaire and maintenance department positions instead of renewing the contracts held with the city.
Merendo had been contracted as the course's golf professional for more than 30 years, but that contract ended at the end of October and was not renewed.
There have been several efforts to help Merendo retain the job. An injunction was filed against the city and commission; people have spoke out at public forums; and, there was a "Rehire Joe the Pro" fundraiser which attracted hundreds of people.
Several members of the new council had said they would also like to retain Merendo's job, but Bucciferro said no one contacted him to give him a heads up about the resolution.
"I was very disappointed that the council made the resolution before talking to us," Bucciferro said. "I didn't even get a phone call. I didn't even have the decency of getting a phone call."
Even when he found out the resolution passed after the meeting, Bucciferro said the commission decided to continue with the interviews.
"We're a strong bunch and we were determined to finish this process," Bucciferro said. "But, like I said to the interviewees, it's not fair to them. There are some who put a lot of work into this."
The commission interviewed Rich Scott, Shawn Bond, Jonathan Hines and Merendo in executive session. Bucciferro said they each did very well and the comission got to learn more about each candidate.
During the interview, Bucciferro said the commission asked each man to describe their management philosophy with their staff; his best professional skill; and his ideal day at work, among other questions.
From that, the commission created a spreadsheet of its recommendations, showing the different revenue streams for each candidate.
The mayor did not return the resolution and has not signed the contract yet. In fact, she said she plans to veto it.
However, her veto can be overridden with a four-fifths vote of the Common Council, something 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said will not be a problem.
If the council overrides the mayor's veto and the contract goes through, Bucciferro said he would feel like the commission wasted its time. However, what happens next, he said, is the "million-dollar question."
"I would feel hurt that we put all of this time and effort together and I truly want to believe that it was for the betterment of the golf course and the betterment of the taxpayers," Bucciferro said. "But to just pass that without doing your duties as a councilperson, I personally just don't think it's why they were put in office. But, be that as it may, it is what it is."
Barone said he didn't think it was necessary to call the commission.
"Why do I have to call anybody?" he asked. "We're the governing power. Really, they're a committee. I just thought the action had to be done quite immediately. You can't leave this course in limbo."
Barone said he's been around the course for about 50 years, either playing or working as a caddy. He said it's one of the greatest ventures the city has ever had.
"We sat down with the pro (Merendo), we looked at the contract, we went over it," Barone said. "We sat with him for two hours before the council was actually a council. And then we sat down and we voted it in 5-0."
He doesn't think the work the commission did was as bulky as Bucciferro makes it seem.
"It's an RFP," Barone said. "What's the big deal? I've done RFPs in the county for several things. It's something to look at. You take a look at what's out there. It's no big deal. They're not big projects, they're not cast in stone. They're requests for proposals."
The council also passed a resolution to re-contract with Laura Elmendorf, the course's former concessionaire, whose contract also expired.
Bucciferro said they are interested in interviewing her, though she was the only person to respond to the commission's request for that position.
Barone said the council plans to wait for the mayor's veto before acting further.