City argues over mayor’s authority

GLOVERSVILLE – The Common Council, mayor and city attorney got into a public dispute during a meeting Tuesday about who has what authority.

The dispute resulted in the council putting off four emergency resolutions involving the Recreation Commission, city transit fees and Common Council rules.

“The degree of breakdown between a portion of the elected council members and the office of the mayor is so bad at this point that the business of the city has stalled,” City Attorney Anthony Casale said.

He provided legal advice to members of the council regarding the authority to make particular changes in various departments, such as Transit and the Recreation Commission.

The council has proposed emergency resolutions at the last two meetings involving the commission and transit department.

One resolution involves the transfer of a $10,000 donation from Overlook Ridge Apartments from the general fund to a Recreation Commission account. Another resolution involves setting a new $250 purchase cap on the Recreation Commission, which will require Common Council approval for any purchase over that amount.

The council also has proposed a resolution to lower the fee to $1 for students of the Gloversville Enlarged School District using the city Transit System to go to the middle school or high school. The fee is currently $2.

Mayor Dayton King and the city attorney say since it’s the mayor’s duty to oversee the various departments in the city, it would also be his duty to approve any changes to fees or limitations through executive order rather than a resolution by the council.

However, members of the council say it’s their duty to oversee the city’s finances, and because of that, it is within their authority to set a cap on recreation spending as well as have a say in a reduction in transit fares for students.

Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said she wanted the transit fee change in an attempt to help the city school district combat truancy while also providing students an opportunity to have an affordable ride to school.

However, Mobility Manager William Walrath said he still needs to talk with the district to determine if it receives any type of aid for the transportation of students that could potentially offset the dollar reduction.

Councilman Jay Zarrelli stated during the meeting he already has met with Recreation Commission Chairman Jeff Ashe and he was OK with the limitation on larger purchases.

King claims Ashe is simply trying to stay out of the dispute.

“I’m not interested in sponsoring a resolution and that is not my intention,” King said. “I do think, however, when we get into supervising departments, that’s a duty of the mayor and the recreation is a department.”

“I think Mr. Ashe and the Recreation Commission don’t want to get into the middle of the mayor versus council,” King said.

He also said it would be fine when purchases are approved, but once the council denies a purchase, it would create an issue.

Zarrelli responded that “sometimes we have to say no.”

City officials say the dispute over power is the result of an illegal Republican caucus at the last council meeting.

During that meeting, council officials said King was trying to sponsor particular legislation outside his authority.

According to the council rules for this year, King is listed as a member of the council. The council had an emergency resolution to remove that from the rules.

Casale stated a reduction in power of the mayor would require a referendum by the public at the next election. However, such change actually happened in 1998 after the Report From the Charter Revision Committee was approved by public referendum. It included a clarification that the mayor is not a member of the Common Council but presides at all meetings of the council and may still participate in those meetings and vote in cases of a tie.

The issue is the charter never was updated with the referendum change.

“I wasn’t here in 1998, so I don’t know what was and wasn’t passed, nor do I have an explanation of why the charter wasn’t modified,” Casale told the council. “I’m simply reading the documents available. The charter says what the charter says and the rules this year defined the mayor as a member of the Common Council.”

One of the mayor’s duties is to determine if proposed emergency resolutions are in fact emergencies, and in this case, he decided they weren’t.

As a result, Zarrelli made a motion to make the proposed resolutions official at the next meeting for a vote by the council.