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Saturday, October 25, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Action on the mayor's vehicle is postponed

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 - Updated: 10:22 AM

By CASEY CROUCHER

Recorder News Staff

The Amsterdam Common Council decided Tuesday to postpone action on limiting the mayor's use of a city vehicle.

"We have copies of the vehicle-use policy in Utica, Saratoga, Johnstown and Gloversville," 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said. "[3rd Ward Alderman Ronald Barone Sr.] and I are going to sit down with the corporation counsel and draft a resolution for all city employees with city vehicles. We'll then bring it to committee."

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 keep a log of vehicle usage, only obtain gasoline 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 rules of the road, including speed limits, and use of equipment for hands-free driving.

"The one thing I will state that's in the agreements for the other cities' policies is that their mayors are not allowed to use the vehicle for personal use," Hatzenbuhler said.

First Ward Alderman Edward Russo brought a document to Tuesday night's meeting outlining what is considered a fringe benefit.

"Personal use [of a vehicle] is a taxable fringe benefit," the document states. "Personal use of a company car includes commuting to and from work, running errands or allowing a family member who is not a company employee to use the vehicle."

Mayor Ann Thane originally told the council she always collects her receipts when personally using the vehicle, but her receipts disappeared from the vehicle around the same time the resolution was drafted.

Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman asked Thane what the receipts were for and why she collected them.

"I put money into the car because I do go to Price Chopper, because I do go out of town, but I don't take it for extended rides. I don't take it for family vacations, I don't take it irresponsibly," Thane said. "But I always tracked how much money I was investing into the car because I felt even though it was not required by the city to record any of my own money into it was still a good idea."

Thane said she would buy floor mats, windshield wipers, take the car to the car wash and put gasoline in it on her own dime if she was using the car for personal use.

"I have literally put thousands of dollars into the car. That is why I think this resolution is so petty," she said.

The mayor said when she first got into office, former controller Heather Reynicke told her to put the personal receipts on her W-2 tax form as a fringe benefit because she was using the car for personal use. Thane said she had no issue with that and that's why she started tracking her personal usage.

Russo said he doesn't have time to waste on "petty stuff like this" but he pointed out that there are other city officials with city vehicles, including the chief of police.

"We have two separate issues here. We have the mayor, we also have the police chief -- I think they both need to have city vehicles," Russo said. "They are on call 24-7. Nobody is driving the vehicle but her, so if someone can prove to me that someone else is driving the vehicle then I'd have an issue with that."

Barone agreed with Russo, adding he refuses to pay for gasoline for personal vehicle use.

"I'm not going to pay for gas for the chief or the mayor to run around on their own. That's not going to happen, not under my watch, and I don't think that's happening," Barone said. "Anything they do with city business we definitely should pay for. Nothing should be coming out of their pocket if it pertains to city business, without a doubt."

Hatzenbuhler reiterated that the new policy being drafted by herself, Barone and Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis will not allow personal use of city vehicles.

The resolution will be discussed during a future committee meeting.

     

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