… I provide the service, and once I’m paid I can provide Cheez Doodles.
—Amsterdam Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis
The Cheez Doodle quote from 2010 describes the use of public money by DeCusatis to pay (or not pay) his secretary. After presenting the 2012 Common Council with a new contract that included a 25% pay raise, DeCusatis was not approved for the job of Corporation Counsel. The current salary for the City of Amsterdam’s Corporation Counsel is $59, 117.
The job of Corporation Counsel is part-time and DeCusatis chose to work from his own office, yet wanted pay for the extra work done by his secretary and included items such as a $60./month stipend instead of using a City owned cell phone.
Things were not all rosy when it came to the job performance of the Corporation Counsel. Under the City’s employ, DeCusatis has often acted outside of the scope of his duties regarding Council Meetings, speaking out of turn as if he were a member of the Common Council. During meetings, the Corporation Counsel’s role is an advisory one, to clarify questions about legal issues.
While DeCusatis worked with Ann Thane for a several years on the Waterfront Commission, it is often speculated that he has a great influence on decisions made by the Mayor. He has been the subject of heated debate by the Common Council and the community.
The City is being sued for $900,000 by the American Home Assurance Co, to recover monies paid to Thomas Eliopoulos owner of the former Edy Brush Company factory building that burned July 14, 2010, due to arson on Brookside Ave. The building was foreclosed by the City and contained a large inventory of books and other property.
The City was also sued by Uri Kaufman which required the hiring of an extra attorney to represent the City.
Apparently DeCusatis has infuriated the Common Council ambushing them with a new contract increase of $15,000 tacked on to his appointment resolution. When the appointment was voted down, DeCusatis quoted Public Officer’s Law stating he stays in the position. Let’s look at that section of Public Officer’s Law:
Public Officers Law/Article 2/ § 5. Holding over after expiration of term. Every officer except a judicial officer, a notary public, a commissioner of deeds and an officer whose term is fixed by the constitution, having duly entered on the duties of his office, shall, unless the office shall terminate or be abolished, hold over and continue to discharge the duties of his office, after the expiration of the term for which he shall have been chosen, until his successor shall be chosen and qualified; but after the expiration of such term, the office shall be deemed vacant for the purpose of choosing his successor. An officer so holding over for one or more entire terms, shall, for the purpose of choosing his successor, be regarded as having been newly chosen for such terms. An appointment for a term shortened by reason of a predecessor holding over, shall be for the residue of the term only.
The Amsterdam City Charter describes the appointment here:
C-41 Law Department
There shall be a Law Department, the head of which shall be the Corporation Counsel, who shall be appointed by the Mayor subject to approval by the Common Council as a part-time officer of the City.
Most people are not aware of this Charter provision:
C-29 Powers and Duties of the Common Council
I. Should the Mayor fail to appoint any position required by the City Charter within 90 days of a vacancy therein, then the Common Council may directly appoint such position.
In my humble opinion, the longest the Common Council has to deal with this cheesy situation is three months. Hopefully they will have hired a new Corporation Counsel by then. This whole incident makes me wonder if the outrageous salary demand during a fiscal crisis, was Gerry DeCusatis’ way of bowing out of the appointment.
My congratulations to the members of the Amsterdam Common Council who had the balls to vote against the DeCusatis appointment. It will be interesting to see how Ann Thane functions without him.