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Friday, October 31, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Wheels of government Debate ongoing over mayor's car

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - Updated: 10:33 AM

By CASEY CROUCHER

Recorder News Staff

The Amsterdam Common Council for the second time tabled a resolution Tuesday night limiting the mayor's use of the city vehicle.

The council decided to have city clerk Susan Alibozek amend an Aug. 1 resolution to include new concerns, and they'll vote on the amended resolution at a future meeting.

"Our biggest concern is liability," 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said.

Barone said he's concerned city vehicles are being used to transport children to school and other places.

"If anything ever happened with children in the city's vehicle the liability would fall under the city and that's a problem," he said.

Barone suggested the rules of using the city vehicle be clarified so children aren't allowed to ride in it.

"I hear a lot of people talking. People are like spies and they're going to tell you what they see," he said. "I've had an awful lot of rumors of children in the car -- that's a problem. That's a liability. That's our biggest issue."

Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick agreed; however, he said he shares the same sentiment as Mayor Ann Thane because he also has a city vehicle that he brings home from work.

"Like the mayor, if I have to go to the store and a get a milk on the way home, I'm going to go get a milk," Culick said. "I'm not going to go all the way home, get my personal car, then turn around and get the milk. I'm just saying, it doesn't make sense for her to leave here, go home, get her car, and turn right back around to the store."

First Ward Alderman Edward Russo said the original resolution should be amended so that the mayor can park the city vehicle at home.

"I think we're just asking for vandals if she parks the car at city hall all night," he said.

Barone suggested the council use the original resolution as a guideline and amend it according to their discussion.

The original resolution, drafted Aug. 1, calls for the mayor to use the vehicle for city business only, and unless she's out of town on city business, the vehicle should be in her parking spot at city hall.

The resolution states that 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."

The mayor would also 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.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, however, said those guidelines would infringe on Thane's use of the car which is part of her compensation as mayor.

"How much compensation do we have to give her?" Barone said. "We pay everything else -- we pay insurance. How much compensation do we have to pay?"

Fourth Ward Alderwoman and Deputy Mayor Diane Hatzenbuhler, who was sitting in the mayor's seat Tuesday night because Thane wasn't able to attend, agreed with Barone.

She said the vehicle has never been under a package deal for salary compensation. Barone asked if there was a resolution stating that and Hatzenbuhler said she's had two former mayors tell her the city vehicle was not part of a "package deal" when they were in office.

"As far as I know there's always been a city vehicle for every mayor," DeCusatis retorted.

"Yes, but not for personal business," Hatzenbuhler said. "They would take it home, park it and then take their personal vehicle to run their personal errands -- including going to school."

The council decided to let Alibozek amend the resolution before deciding on anything final.

Culick suggested the resolution be amended so it addresses all of the city's vehicles, not just the mayor's. The council agreed.

Contact Casey Croucher at casey.croucher@recordernews.com

     

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