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Charter rework focuses on city contracts

Friday, August 08, 2014 - Updated: 10:16 AM


After a dispute earlier this year between the Amsterdam Common Council and Mayor Ann Thane regarding contract negotiations was decided in Supreme Court, the Charter Review Commission appointed by Thane has decided to review that section of the city charter.

Commission chairman Peter Califano said the section regarding contracts falls under the powers and duties of the Common Council, specifically that the council has the power to "award all public contracts, subject to applicable law. All bids in response to requests for bid issued by the Common Council shall be sent or delivered, prior to the bid deadline to the office of the city clerk, duly filed and recorded and thereafter to be publicly opened and read at the time and place specified," the charter states.

Califano said the commission updated the language in the section to say the council has the power to "award all public contracts that are subject to competitive bidding." He said the commission hasn't voted on the change yet; it has been sent to corporation counsel Gerard DeCusatis for revisions.

He said the mayor will draft the bid specifications and the council will be designated to approve them.

"This language is trying to get both the mayor and the Common Council to agree on a bid specification," Califano said.

He said the commission wants to change the charter so the mayor would have to approve an amendment made by the council, so that the council couldn't change the specifications before putting the contract out to bid without the mayor's consent.

"For example, let's say the mayor wants to pave five city streets and she comes up with a bid specification for the project," he said. "She names the five streets and then the council passes the bid specification, meaning they put the contract out to bid, but they changed the five streets being paved; that wouldn't happen with our change."

He said if the council wanted to change the contract or enhance it they would just have to go to the mayor and "they would have to work it out together."

Califano said the commission wanted to clarify the charter regarding contracts because "it's really not clear who does what, and who can do what," he said. "This is an attempt to pre-emptively resolve trouble."

He also said the commission looked at the mayor's powers and duties, specifically the section that states, "On approval by the Common Council, to negotiate and grant leases, concessions, licenses and permits for use of city property and appurtenances and to execute deeds and enter into contracts on behalf of the city, as authorized by the Common Council."

He said the commission is "delineating what the mayor can do, what the council can do, and what they both have to work jointly on."

Under the commission proposal the mayor would be able to negotiate the terms and conditions of licenses greater than one year and the council would have to approve the mayor's negotiations; however, the council would not have lateral authority to compel the mayor to do something, he said.

Califano said that's how the mayor and council ended up in court because the "council compelled the mayor to sign a resolution granting a lease for a year or more."

He said the charter change would clarify the language and allow the mayor to execute bargaining agreements but the council would approve the mayor's actions.

"This is all true now but it's not formally written which can open up arguments and cause more fighting, so we want to fix that issue," he said.

Califano said the last thing the commission looked at Monday night was the controller's position and how he or she in the elected position must go to the Common Council for "insignificant amounts of money like $100."

"I don't know the exact figure the controller must go to the council to ask for but we're looking to give the position more purchasing power," he said.

The chairman said the commission plans to having everything done by the first week of September to ensure changes are ready by Election Day.

"We're not creating any new powers for the mayor, we're not creating any new powers for the council, and we're not taking away any powers from people. We're just laying them out pursuant to the court's decision and we're clarifying the charter, I think we're getting a lot done," he said.


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