Amsterdam rescinds city residence requirement for volunteer boards

'It's tough to get people for these volunteer boards, but, by opening up the gene pool, everybody's got a shot at it'

The Amsterdam Common Council has voted to expand the mayor’s discretion to appoint non-city residents to the city’s volunteer boards. 

The action, passed unanimously at the council’s Dec. 4 meeting, overturns a 2014 resolution that limited the mayor to choosing only city residents to serve on the city’s volunteer boards, which include: the zoning board of appeals, the golf commission and the urban renewal agency board among others. 

Fourth Ward Alderman Dave Dybas said the 2014 resolution appears to have been an attempt to limit then mayor-Ann Thane’s discretion to appoint people to the city’s boards. He said Thane never signed the resolution, but her signature wasn’t needed because it had unanimous support that precluded her ability to veto the resolution. He said the council’s recent action merely returns the city to the earlier status quo before 2014, which he thinks is in line with the city’s charter granting the mayor discretion over appointments to volunteer boards.  

“It’s tough to get people for these volunteer boards, but, by opening up the gene pool, everybody’s got a shot at it,” Dybas said.  

Deputy Mayor James Martuscello, who represents the 5th Ward, said Mayor Michael Villa and the Common Council have had a difficult time finding volunteers who are city residents to fill out the city’s unpaid boards. There is currently one vacant seat on the city’s seven member planning commission, one vacancy on the five-member Urban Renewal Agency Board and two seats on the five-member golf commission.

Martuscello said it can be difficult to find city residents willing to serve on boards where they will be required to make decisions on matters affecting people they know. 

“We’ve had a hard time forming a quorum at some of these meetings because we haven’t had enough people,” Martuscello said.

Amsterdam is not the only local municipality to do away with city residence requirements for mayoral appointments in recent years. In 2014 Gloversville passed a resolution granting the mayor the power to appoint anyone residing in Fulton County to the city’s volunteer boards or to the city’s paid appointed positions. The city of Johnstown has passed a similar resolution expanding the mayor’s power to appoint paid positions to anyone residing in Fulton County.   

The Amsterdam council’s Dec. 4 resolution gives the mayor the ability to appoint anyone who lives within the Greater Amsterdam School District to serve on the city’s volunteer boards, which includes portions of Schenectady, Saratoga and Fulton counties. 

James Glorioso Jr., a former candidate for 2nd Ward alderman and Montgomery County sheriff, spoke out against the residency requirement change during the public comment portion of the Dec. 4 meeting. 

“My personal opinion is we should not allow [volunteer board members] to come from outside the city of Amsterdam. I know several people who would love to be on these commissions, but I think the important part is giving these people the opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that people don’t want to do it, but there’s a culture of hand-selecting the people that you want to do it. So, I’m putting it out there that for me at least, and a friend of mine, we are both willing to be on whatever commission or whatever open seats there are to change the city, and I’m sure there’s more out there.” 

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