Amsterdam cuts deal with engineer to leave

City officials have reached a settlement agreement with suspended city engineer Richard Phillips.


City officials have reached a settlement agreement with suspended city engineer Richard Phillips.

The Common Council accepted the deal at its meeting following a closed session; it will give Phillips $35,000.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis would not reveal the terms of the settlement Wednesday, but said the agreement is “a good thing for everyone involved.”

The agreement includes Phillips’ formal resignation.

Controller Heather Reynicke sent an e-mail to aldermen Wednesday asking one of them to sponsor a resolution that would transfer $35,000 from different accounts to a judgment account.

Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, the only Common Council member not to approve the deal, said he thinks the settlement would have saved the city money in attorney fees and possible litigation, but said he doesn’t like paying for anyone who didn’t do any work.

“I just didn’t feel right about the whole thing,” Wills said. “If there was ample reasons by the mayor to release him then why am I paying him?”

After being appointed to the position by Mayor Ann Thane in April 2008, Phillips was suspended without pay in November for what Thane said was “poor performance.” As an appointed official, he was entitled to a trial-like hearing to plead his case in front of the Common Council, a procedure that had never been done in the city.

City officials and Phillips, who was represented by Latham-based attorney James Tuttle, negotiated for a few weeks on a settlement instead going that route.

Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, R-3rd Ward, said the settlement agreement was “in line with what we had offered so we accepted it.”

DeRossi said she hopes the city can now move forward from the “unfortunate situation” and get someone to at least take Phillips’ place in the interim, while the city decides how to fill the position.

There has been discussion about not having a city engineer position and instead having a commission of public works. The city engineer is responsible for the Department of Public Works and the sewer and water departments.

Currently, Phillips’ duties are being divided among three city employees: assistant engineer Rosanne Rusnica, plumbing inspector Irwin Harnish and DPW supervisor Ray Halgas.

Categories: Schenectady County

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