JAMESTOWN – City councilman Andy Liuzzo (R-At Large) expressed his concern during Monday Night’s Jamestown City Council meeting over recent revisions made to the bylaws of the Jamestown Local Development Corporation (JLDC), while also criticizing the process involving how they were made.
Under the old bylaws of the JLDC, any revisions to the bylaws or certificate of incorporation needed to be approved by the city council prior to going into effect.
As WRFA reported last week, the revisions to the JLDC bylaws and a new JLDC certificate of incorporation were unanimously approved by the city council on three separate occasions in 2016 and 2017.
It’s since been learned that when the city council acted on the new JLDC certificate of incorporation, that action did not include the updated bylaws. The council did act on bylaw changes in one of those three instances during the April 2017 voting session, but that resolution was rescinded in the November 2017 voting session. A subsequent vote was only on the new JLDC certificate of incorporation.
During each of the three city council votes, there was no prior public discussion by council members, nor was there a presentation on any of the proposed changes to the bylaws or new JLDC certificate of incorporation in the weeks prior to the vote. In addition, each time the council acted on the resolutions, they were introduced as new business, meaning they did not appear on the prefiled voting agenda for each respective voting session. As a result, there was no advanced notice to the public that a vote would be taking place. Also, when it finally came time for the council to vote on the updates, they were mainly described as a “procedural update” that involved “minor revisions” or “clean up language.”
It was only after the bylaw revisions were approved and the new JLDC certificate of incorporation was authorized by the state that the revised bylaws were posted online at the JLDC website. At that time it was discovered that the revised bylaws changed how three JLDC board members would be appointed, with the power of appointment shifting to the mayor from the respective organizations (Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier) that are to hold each of those three seats.
Monday night, councilman Liuzzo said the process was indicative of his concern that government has lacked transparency in recent years and illustrated how it was an effort to fill the seats of another city agency only with individuals who align themselves with the mayor.
Following Liuzzo’s remarks, Councilman and finance committee chair Tony Dolce (R-Ward 2) – who sponsored all three resolutions each time they were voted on – explained that there was transparency because the proposed revisions to the JLDC bylaws were discussed in both JLDC meetings as well as council committee meetings, prior to being acted on. He also said the changes to the power of appointment for three JLDC board seats were done to reflect what had already been taken place in practice over the years – when the mayor would appoint someone to fill a vacancy or when the president of the three organizations was unable to serve.
In addition, both Dolce and mayor Sam Teresi pointed out to WRFA that the city council only acted on the re-certifying of the Certificate of Incorporation for the JLDC, and not the actual bylaw revisions, which were only acted on by the JLDC.
It’s worth noting that the bylaw revisions that were approved by the JLDC board near the end of 2017 were voted on after the city council’s vote on re-certification, which was subsequently approved by the state. Under the original JLDC bylaws, the city council was required to act on any bylaw amendments before they could go into effect. With the JLDC board acting on the bylaws after the re-certification was made official, it’s unclear if the council would still be required to act on any changes to the JLDC bylaws before they go into effect.