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Charter session tonight Contracts, clerk next on agenda

Monday, August 18, 2014 - Updated: 10:32 AM


The Charter Review Comm-ission appointed by Mayor Ann Thane will meet again today after tabling a discussion last week regarding contractual powers in the charter.

The commission plans to review Judge Joseph Sise's decision from earlier this year regarding a dispute between the Amsterdam Common Council and the mayor over contract negotiations.

The commission wanted to change the charter to align with Sise's ruling. The group proposed that the mayor would be able to negotiate terms and conditions of licenses and permits for use of city property longer than one year and the council would have to approve the mayor's negotiations; however, the council would not have unilateral authority to compel the mayor to act.

The charter currently states that in order to negotiate grant leases, concessions, licenses or permits for use of city property and appurtenances, the mayor needs approval by the Common Council. The mayor also needs authorization to execute deeds and enter contracts on behalf of the city.

The commission also wants to change the charter to include the execution of a collective bargaining agreement or an employment contract for a position not otherwise covered in the charter which must be approved by resolution of the council.

The commission also tabled a resolution involving the position of city clerk, currently held by Susan Alibozek, who has two major duties: acting as a record keeper for the city, and being the clerk for the Common Council.

In July, the commission discussed the idea of having one clerk solely for the council, and a second clerk to perform the position's traditional duties.

However, after receiving a letter from Alibozek, the commission is not sure of how it wants to proceed. In the letter, Alibozek said she has been the city clerk since 2008 and her position has always been an appointment of the Common Council. She said the issues between this year's council and the mayor "are drawing [her] office into their disputes."

She said some of the disputes have been the result of being asked to type up resolutions by a council member which were then held by that member until the meeting, without the advanced knowledge of the other council members, mayor or corporation counsel.

She said that decision is the "prerogative" of any council member, as well as the mayor and "a separate clerk for the council would not preclude this type of request."

Alibozek said that she has never denied a request by the mayor, corporation counsel or member of the council.

"If the material is available, they are provided with the information," her letter says, "with the exception of certain records (births, deaths, marriages which are not open public records and available to only certain parties.)"

She said a second clerk position would expend "unnecessary tax dollars" for two clerks doing the job that has been handled by one person for many years.

After reading Alibozek's letter, commission member Michael Chiara said he wants to leave the clerk's position the way it is.

"After thinking it over, looking at it and listening to everyone, I think we should keep things the way they are," Chiara said. "I think it can work -- it has worked over the years. ... I never saw any problems with it."

Commission member Curtis Peninger asked if anyone on the council had expressed a desire for a separate clerk. A majority of the commission members shook their heads no.

Corporation counsel Gerard DeCusatis reminded the commission that the current clerk serves the council, not the mayor, which is why the proposal was brought up.

"[The city clerk] is put in a position of difficulty," DeCusatis said. "Certain council members tell the clerk, 'don't tell the mayor I want this on the agenda' and [the clerk] has to oblige."

Commission member Anthony Agresta said he's considering the idea of two clerks.

"The way I see it right now, the clerk serves at the pleasure of the Common Council, and is a city clerk who works a regular job in city hall doing regular functions for the city, but for the Common Council they read the agendas and resolutions at the meetings and act as the council's secretary," Agresta said. "So, they have two different bosses, it's like if you don't like what mom says go ask dad -- to get the answer you want you play one against the other."

Commission member and former alderwoman Gina DeRossi said this resolutions doesn't have a lot of public support and she's worried it might interrupt with the commission's other proposals.

"I don't think this has a lot of public support and my fear is that will come over into some of our other propositions which have a lot of validity," DeRossi said. "Maybe this is something we can look at further down the line but right now I don't think we have the time for it, and I don't think this should go much further."

The commission voted 8-1 to table the idea; Chiara was the opposing vote.

The group also brought up the idea of adding term limits to the charter; however, they aren't sure how the public feels on the matter.

Chairman Peter Califano suggested the commission ask the public if they are interested in term limits. Residents can tell Califano their opinion through his email address:

The group will meet at 6:30 p.m. today in the city hall annex.


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