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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,

Alissa Scott/Recorder staff Amsterdam resident Diane Smith tells the Common Council it ought to be ashamed of itself for not compromising with the mayor during the public participation portion of a council meeting Tuesday night.

Alissa Scott/Recorder staff Mayor Ann Thane listens as 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler reads a prepared statement about why she was rescinding a resolution that allowed her to contract with Joseph Merendo.

Alissa Scott/Recorder staff Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler rescinded a resolution that allowed her to contract with Joseph Merendo Tuesday night.

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Court date Thursday a.m. Council backs off signing of pro's golf pact

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - Updated: 10:14 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

Deputy Mayor Diane Hatzen-buhler said Tuesday that by signing former city golf pro Joseph Merendo's contract earlier this month, she "escalated the conflict" and clouded the fundamental issue at the center of a lawsuit filed by Mayor Ann Thane against her and the Common Council.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the council unanimously rescinded the resolution that gave Hatzen-buhler authority to sign Merendo's contract.

"I believe we should reduce the issues and get to the fundamental question: Who has the right to award a municipal contract for professional golf services in the city of Amsterdam?" Hatzen-buhler read from a prepared statement.

She and Merendo had signed his contract earlier this month, leaving the council under the impression Merendo could start work at the course.

This new resolution retracts that and puts Merendo back in limbo -- though city controller Matthew Agresta had said that even with a signed contract, he won't pay Merendo while a court proceeding was pending.

Thane filed an Article 78 lawsuit in Montgomery County Supreme Court last week against the council, the city controller and Merendo.

Thane is seeking to invalidate Merendo's contract and prohibit Agresta from paying the golf pro.

The lawsuit also established a temporary restraining order against the Common Council. It forbids the aldermen from executing any contracts on behalf of the city unless the mayor is absent. Additionally, it negates a proposed amendment that restructures and gives the council total control over the Golf Commission.

Hatzenbuhler, again, nodded to the tangled issue at hand. She said by rescinding her resolution and withdrawing the ordinance change that restructures the golf commission, Judge Joseph M. Sise will have an easier time ruling.

"The council passed a resolution awarding a contract, the mayor issued a veto, and the council passed a resolution overriding that veto," Hatzenbuhler said. "The mayor won't sign the contract. We believe she ought to, so a judge will have to decide."

The restraining order would have made it illegal for the council to restructure the golf commission. That, however, was not the reason Hatzenbuhler withdrew the amendment.

She said it is because it "also obscures the central issue of whether it is the council or the mayor who has the power to award a city contract for professional golf services."

Thane said she had received a letter from the council's new attorney Michael Brockbank earlier that day, so she wasn't surprised that the council rescinded the resolution.

"I think it's better that it's a better targeted argument in the court, but I still feel very strongly that I'm doing what's right for the city," Thane said.

She is, however, disappointed that the council didn't move forward on a resolution to lease golf carts for the course. The purchase projects an $80,000 profit for the city.

If the court rules in the council's favor and Merendo remains a contractor for the city, his personal carts will be used, as they have in the past.

But, if the judge decides the council is not authorized to award Merendo a contract, the course won't have any carts when the season begins.

"This would have put money in the line item in case things don't go the way they anticipate." Thane said. "It doesn't necessarily say you're going to spend it, but the money would have been available then.

"I think they have turned down $80,000 of revenue and they have turned down an opportunity to build the reserves and bring an expert in to make recommendations to improve the course and staff the course and we could have been prepared no matter what happens with the court cases," she said.

Hatzenbuhler also withdrew two resolutions she sponsored last week: one that disallows Thane from using city taxpayer money to pay for her attorney Paul Goldman, and one that would have transferred all funding for outside counsel into contingency.

The group will next meet in Supreme Court Thursday at 9 a.m.

     

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