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Amsterdam councilwoman grills department heads over spending

Amsterdam councilwoman grills department heads over spending

Amsterdam Recreation Department Director Rob Spagnola presented a slew of documents Tuesday to the c

Amsterdam Recreation Department Director Rob Spagnola presented a slew of documents Tuesday to the city’s Common Council detailing how the agency is spending money.

At a meeting last month, Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler asked for a breakdown of the department’s spending because she believed its $29,000 utility bill in 2012-13 was abnormally high.

The documents break down how much money the department is spending at each park in the city, Spagnola said. Spagnola said he has not been asking the city for any additional funding and the scrutiny the department has been under is unwarranted.

“We are not coming to the city asking for $1 million,” he said. “We have been able to help the city without costing it any money by using volunteers and people that want to help the city.”

He added the department has only received two bonds from the city in the past 10 years and is still able to thrive. He admitted that while he has kept track of a good deal of the department’s finances, “there may have been some things that I may have missed.”

“I don’t know what other questions I can answer for you,” he said.

Hatzenbuhler said the documents are what she has wanted for nearly 10 months and is glad to finally have.

“This is what I was looking for, I just wish I had these sooner,” she said following the meeting. “I have been asking for these for quite a while now.

The rest of the council seemed pleased with the information Spagnola presented. Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman thanked Spagnola for the job he is doing.

“You are doing a great job, and I would like to commend you for the work you are doing for our youth and for the people in the city,” she said.

“I don’t think there is anything you missed,” added First Ward Alderman Ed Russo. “I think you did a great job breaking everything down.”

During a committee meeting, Hatzenbuhler also grilled Fire Department Chief Michael Witty when he asked for additional overtime funding for firefighters.

He said that during the summer, the department used almost $53,000 of the $60,000 the council approved for overtime spending. He said that was necessary due to a number of work-related injuries that left the department extremely shorthanded.

“We were missing about one-eighth of our usual staff,” he said.

He asked the council for an additional $15,000 through Dec. 31 to cover overtime expenditures. He said the injured firefighters have not yet returned, and a number of employees will be taking time off during the upcoming holiday season.

Hatzenbuhler said the council should review how the department is spending its originally allotted overtime money and seemed hesitant to allocate more funding.

“That’s outrageous that they spent that much money,” she said. “I’m sorry, but it really is.”

The council did not vote to amend the city’s code of ethics. The code details how city officials and employees are expected to conduct themselves and perform their jobs and has been under review for about a year by the city’s Ethics Board.

The council instead plans to vote next week on proposed changes that include prohibiting officials from using their position to impede the political interests of another candidate for public office, mandating public disclosure by mayoral or council candidates of any campaign contribution that exceeds $250 and prohibiting council members from benefiting personally or financially from their position.

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