By CASEY CROUCHER
The Amsterdam Common Council has drafted a resolution for Tuesday's meeting to limit Mayor Ann Thane's use of the city's vehicle.
The resolution states that "numerous complaints have been made publicly by residents concerning the mayor's use of the city's vehicle for personal use."
The resolution demands the mayor only use the vehicle for city business, and unless she's out of town doing city business, the vehicle should be parked in her parking spot at city hall.
According to the resolution, the mayor would be required to use her own personal vehicle to and from city hall, and would not be permitted to use the city's vehicle for personal use like "grocery shopping, the gym or transporting children."
If approved, the mayor would be required to maintain a log of vehicle usage; only obtain gas for the city's vehicle from the Department of Public Works garage; keep a record of all mileage from any New York Conference of Mayors business she attends, and observe all the "rules of the road" including speed limits, and use of equipment for hands-free driving.
Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, 2nd Ward Alderman Edward Russo, 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald Barone Sr. and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero are all named as the resolution's sponsors.
However, after picking up their agendas for next week's meeting, a few council members were confused.
"I don't know what's going on," Barone said. "I'll figure this out after we discuss things at the meeting. We can't just jump on whatever we feel comes to mind."
Russo thought there was miscommunication between the council, and said he didn't approve of the resolution.
"I think there was a misunderstanding, because this draft was supposed to go to committee to be reviewed, not as a resolution to be voted on," he said. "I'm rescinding my name, and I want to go to committee to review this."
He said he supported the draft going to a committee of the whole meeting for discussion, but said he would not vote on it until he had adequate information.
"I've said from day one, anything that's going to come to us as a resolution has to go through committee first," he said. "I think there was some miscommunication between some alderpeople."
Hatzenbuhler, however, had more knowledge on the issue.
"People are fed up with the mayor using the city car as her personal vehicle," she said. "It's a new year and we can actually control what she does with the vehicle."
Hatzenbuhler said the DPW gas tanks are computerized and require each city employee to enter a code in order to obtain gas. She said the code system makes it easy to track employees' gas usage records.
"The [public safety building], where the mayor fills her tank generally, is harder to get records from because the [Amsterdam Police Department] has a log book where everyone just writes their information in, and the DPW computerized system is much more efficient," she said. "That's why we want the mayor filling the car's tank at DPW."
The alderwoman also said logging mileage from the mayor's NYCOM trips will help the city, because NYCOM told the council they would reimburse the city for those expenses.
"I get a lot of complaints from city residents about the mayor's use of the city vehicle," she said. "I've been told she drives to the grocery store, she's been seen taking her son to Alpin House Fitness, and one resident told me the mayor's daughter backed the city vehicle out of their driveway and almost hit another vehicle."
When asked if Hatzenbuhler has seen Thane using the vehicle for personal use, however, she said she's only seen the mayor drive to and from city hall in the city vehicle.
"This has been going on for years," she said. "How do you take care of this issue without turning it into the council going out to get the mayor? To put it simply, the public wants this to stop."
Leggiero said he's in favor of the resolution because "the car is for city use only."
He claims he's seen the mayor using the city vehicle for her own personal use.
"I've seen her at Price Chopper many, many times," he said. "It's a city-owned vehicle that's used for city business. Not private business, city business."
He said he thinks the council needs more information from the corporation counsel before voting on a decision, but he said something needs to be done.
Thane said she thinks the resolution is "ridiculous."
"This city has serious blight, we have dilapidated parks, and the council decides to focus on such menial issues," she said. "They need to focus on more important issues other than this, and they need to stop being so irresponsible.
"This is such B.S.," she added.
Thane admitted she does drive the city's vehicle to the grocery store and other businesses, but she doesn't think it needs to be made into such an issue.
"I do go to Price Chopper," she said. "I drive there after work to get food so I can make dinner for my family. Sometimes I go to Walmart to get art supplies for the [Creative Connections Arts Center] and sometimes I get gardening supplies for city hall, but I don't think it needs to be such an issue."
Thane said she doesn't conduct city business strictly within the city's parameters.
"Part of my job as mayor is going all over the place at all hours; I'm basically on call 24 hours a day," she said.
She said the city vehicle is part of her compensation, which was set in 1997, and hasn't seen any increases or inflation for the cost of living since.
"Many, many employees make more than the mayor, even though the individual serving in this capacity is on call 24/7, is in charge of all 200 employees, and is responsible for daily operations in the city," she said. "This is just small-mindedness from the council yet again, it does not help the city one bit."