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Amsterdam, NY ,

Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff City Deputy Controller David Mitchell listens to discussion about the a resolution to put a date on the special election to change the city charter at the Common Council meeting Tuesday.

Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff The Common Council meets in council chambers in City Hall Tuesday for its meeting.

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City to decide in June on fate of controller position

Wednesday, April 03, 2013 - Updated: 4:10 PM

By REBECCA WEBSTER

Recorder News Staff

City of Amsterdam residents will go to the polls on June 4 to vote on a city charter amendment to change the city controller position from elected to appointed.

The vote will additionally be to revise the budget process.

At Tuesday's Common Council meeting in City Hall, council members voted unanimously to hold a referendum for the local law at a special election on June 4 from noon to 9 p.m. with the polling place, as of now, being at City Hall.

"It's something we've worked hard for for a long time," said Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane.

Following the meeting, First Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel said he thinks the council needs to just get the process concluded.

"It was something that is a long time coming," Isabel said. "I'm glad we're taking action on this."

Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas said that the people of the city need to be the ones to decide.

"I'd like to see it be appointed, but it's not for me to decide," Dybas said. "It's for the people."

The alderman said that Deputy Controller David Mitchell is doing a "fantastic job" so far in the controller's office, and if the voters vote "yes" to the charter change, having an additional person, like Mitchell, will help in making the job description more comprehensive.

"The more minds working on it, the better off it will be," Dybas said.

Dybas said that if the vote is a "yes," he would like to see the job description out within a month of the voting results.

Before leaving City Hall Tuesday evening following the council meeting, Mitchell said that whomever comes into the position "should know what he's doing."

Mitchell has been at the helm in the office for the past month as deputy controller, during which time, he said, he's made a few changes, including bringing tax collection in-house and working to get the KVS system "running more efficiently than it was before."

"My goal is to get it being used appropriately," Mitchell said of the KVS system, "and have accounting procedures followed correctly."

Mitchell said that at some point the KVS system will eventually be able to handle all of the budget work, but it will take some time to get it to that point.

That process continues as the council awaits the vote of the public to see what will happen to not only the budget process, but the controller seat.

According to the local law, the charter change would bring the controller under the "Appointive officers" category and would entail a term of office to end six years from the effective date of the local law amending the charter and abolishing the elective officer of the controller.

"Thereafter, the terms of office of the Controller shall be for six years," the local law says.

Minimum qualifications of the controller under this charter change would include items like graduating from an accredited four-year-college or university with a Bachelor or Business Administration Degree with a major in accounting or a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in accounting, as well as four years of accounting working experience.

The local law would also completely replace the operating budget procedure in its entirety with a new one that would not involve a budget review board.

When council members voted on sending the charter change out to referendum at their last meeting in March, the sole dissenter was Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero, who said at the time that he agreed with part of the change, but not all of it.

He agreed with the qualification aspect, but felt that whoever was in the position still needed to be up to voters.

On Tuesday night, Leggiero voted "yes" along with the other council members to the resolution that detailed the voting date, time and location for the special vote.

Leggiero said after the meeting that it's something that he has "no control over at this point."

"I made my vote back then and this is like a no-brainer sort of situation here," he said.

Leggiero said that on Tuesday it wouldn't have made a difference how he voted because he knew he would be outnumbered.

But now, he said, it's up to the people.

"It's the old logic that let the people speak when it comes time to their voting."

     

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