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Court's ruling won't affect other contracts

Friday, April 04, 2014 - Updated: 10:20 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

Though Joseph Merendo's contract was deemed invalid in a Supreme Court decision Wednes-day, city Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said it will not retroactively affect any other contracts already in place.

"This wouldn't retroactively invalidate anything," he said. "This would only give direction for future action."

During the Amsterdam Common Council's organizational meeting Jan. 1, the Republican aldermen put up a pair of resolutions authorizing the mayor to contract with former golf professional Merendo and course concessionaire Laura Elmendorf.

By Supreme Court Judge Joseph Sise's determination Wednesday, there must have been negotiations prior to those resolutions and the council is not authorized to negotiate, according to the city charter. Only Mayor Ann Thane has that power.

However, according to DeCusatis, Elmendorf's contract is in the clear.

"There's no problems with it because it was authorized to be executed by the mayor and if she had an objection, she would have had to raise it at that time," DeCusatis said. "So it is valid at this point."

Elmendorf said she met with the aldermen prior to Jan. 1 -- before they were sworn in -- but only for them to tell her they were "awarding her the bid."

"They said we're giving you the bid at five years with an option of an extension and we'll come up with a contract later," Elmendorf said.

Thane and DeCusatis met with Elmendorf on several occasions to negotiate her contract.

DeCusatis confirmed he was there during negotiations and it is "certainly valid" because the council didn't solely negotiate her contract. The mayor played a role as well.

"And she signed it," DeCusatis said.

On the other hand, Thane and her attorney, Paul Goldman, offered Merendo and his attorney several compromise solutions before the matter hit the courts and were not able to reach an agreement.

"Technically, I did negotiate with the mayor," Elmendorf said.

Third Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said "technically" the council didn't negotiate anything.

"The council never negotiated any contracts," Barone said. "They were passed onto us. I don't know where everyone keeps getting this stuff from. I'm puzzled."

Barone said the fact that the dispute made it to the courts is a "bad, tragic thing that should have never come to this;" however, the golf dispute quickly turned into a charter interpretation question. That, DeCusatis said, is important to resolve.

"This is the first instance that I know of where this set of facts has occurred where the council has tried to pass a contract that the mayor does not approve of," DeCusatis said. "Certainly, it can instruct you how future disputes will be handled. ... Now, disputes like this should probably not arise."

     

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