How Common Council Members and Their Supporters Smear the Corporation Counsel

First, let’s establish the meaning of ‘smear’: damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander.

Next, let’s look at how Council members and their supporters consistently level false accusations against the Corporation Counsel

Smear 1: The Corporation Counsel uses city resources for personal business.

Here is an exchange between Ms. Hatzenbuhler and Tim Becker on this blog :

Diane Hatzenbuhler:
“There is not enough city work to justify a full time secretary, so therefore, the secretary is sitting there playing solitaire or on FB or doing work for GD’s private practice or as GD said, twiddling his thumbs.”

Tim Becker:
“Please state for the record, Diane, do you have any evidence whatsoever that DeCusatis has utilized his assistant for personal business?”

Diane Hatzenbuhler:
“Let us just take his personal business out of the equation since I have no proof. There is no proof since there is no accountability. ” [snip]

Tim Becker:
“Let us just take his personal business out of the equation since I have no proof.” – Un-real. I have no words. You are essentially admitting to slander here.

By her own admission, Ms. Hatzenbuhler has no facts supporting this claim. And neither does anyone else on this bandwagon but it does not stop the accusation from being leveled.


Smear 2: The Corporation Counsel has never brought a codes case to court in X years.

Here is an accusation by Ms. Hatzenbuhler:

As for codes. GD did nothing with codes in the first 3 and a half years in office. Nothing was sent to court as he found nothing but problems with the accusatory statements.


From 2008 through 2011 (Ms. Hatzenbuhler’s time period for her accusation), a total of $11,850 was collected through codes for housing related fines. In 2009 and 2011, a total of 54 housing cases were brought to court (according to NY State Court Records).


Here is an accusation by poster ‘Luis’:

I suppose no one sees something wrong within the city law dept.? It’s not the work load because we have never heard of a city code enforcement case settlement with a landlord in Amsterdam now in 7 years.

Here is an accusation by ‘Rogo’:

when is last case corp council went to court. I might be wrong but let me no answer


From 2008 through 2014, a total of $119,342.10 have been collected through codes from a total of 474 codes cases. Of the $119,342.10 , $60,850 are housing related fines. (Figures from NY State Court Records and City of Amsterdam public documents)

Apparently 474 codes cases and more than $119 thousand in fines is equivalent to zero.

What’s even better is that Ms. Hatzenbuhler and other critics claim Counsel brings no cases to court. Here is Ms. Hatzenbuhler in her own words:

“GD has also personally insulted and belittled the codes officer in the court, which I do attend and have witnessed.”

So Ms. Hatzenbuhler verifies Corp Counsel is physically present in court but, per Luis and others,  he never brings court cases to court. Houdini would blush at this feat of illusion.



Smear 3: Corporation Counsel will not prosecute cases due to slumlord clients.

Yet another accusation by Ms. Hatzenbuhler:

Current corp counsel has shown no interest for the past 3 and a half years, but now he is going to change?? I do not think so. He represents two of the city’s biggest slumlords, one of which is on Forest Ave. (Although I am sure he will say he does not represent them at the current time)


Has anyone seen his client on Forest Ave. make it’s way to court for the exterior junk and removed sprinkler system? Of course not, look who’s in charge.

Yes the Corp. Counsel determines which cases proceed to court by approving their submission. Has anyone seen his client on Forest Ave. make it’s way to court for the exterior junk and removed sprinkler system? Of course not, look who’s in charge.


Corporation Counsel has publicly recused himself from the case due to an attorney-client relationship. As is ethically and professionally proper conduct, Corporation CoOunsel has rightfully removed himself from the case. Therefore, it falls upon the Common Council to bring any case forward through an outside attorney in this case.

Here is the very public statement on the matter from Corp Counsel (Recorder August 28, 2014):

The city wants to enforce a code violation against a current client of mine, and also a former client with regard to defending code violations before I was the city attorney,” Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said. “So I can’t be involved because it’s a conflict of interest, so they need to hire outside counsel for that.”

Attorney Ronald Schur, of Mayfield-based Schur and Rose PLLC, was authorized in the council’s resolution to represent the city in a legal case, which involves alleged city code violations against an unnamed resident.

Schur’s payment for the representation will not exceed $2,500. City Controller Matthew Agresta said he was worried Schur would “go through $2,500 quickly” and there would still be more work to do on the case.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said she’s going to visit Schur at his office and talk about the city’s financial issues regarding this case so that the city doesn’t spend too much money on outside counsel. She said action has to be taken against the alleged code violator. “We cannot let them stay there and destroy that neighborhood anymore — it’s been going on for 15 years,” she said. “We’ve got to start somewhere and [the Codes Department] has done everything they possibly can.”

Remember, the above quote from Corp Counsel is from August 2014, 8 months ago. Now Ms Hatzenbuhler claims , falsely again, that Corp Counsel will not admit to clients as former or current even though the public record makes quite clear that that is precisely what Corporation Counsel said. Furthermore, Corporation Counsel specifically advised the Council to proceed with an outside attorney due to this conflict of interest.

Now that it is 8 months later and the Council has not taken any action, Ms Hatzenbuhler levels the accountability at the Corp Counsel when it is more than clear that accountability lies squarely at the feet of the Common Council. Why has the Council failed to support codes and pursue the case? Why is the Council not subject to the same accountability they seemingly expect of everyone but themselves?

What Ms. Hatzenbuhler, her fellow Common Council members, and their supporters seek is to question the Corp Counsel’s competence so they can deflect attention from their very own incompetence: by failing to properly staff codes, by cutting resources to the Corporation Counsel and by advancing their political agenda above the public interest.

It’s that simple.

32 thoughts on “How Common Council Members and Their Supporters Smear the Corporation Counsel

  1. The attorney, Mr. Shurr that was hired, notified us just before Thanksgiving he had found a conflict of interest and would not be able to represent us………this after he assured me he had no conflicts…….I do understand that things can change. In the meantime we have do have another attorney that will take the case. Hohenforst is being given one more chance to to meet with the engineer to resolve the issues. If they are not resolved, we will proceed to court.

    I still stand by my other comments in regards to codes in the first three years. There were no accusatory statements approved by GD for that length of time, so I am unsure what these cases would be. I will follow up though.

    And yes, he has insulted/belittled the codes officer in front of the judge, when he could have said, “he is doing his job your honor”.

    • Diane,

      “I still stand by my other comments in regards to codes in the first three years.”

      You are basically saying that actual cases and dockets in the NY State Court System are just not compelling enough evidence for you to reconsider your position. You realize that for you to stand by your current comments you are basically saying, ” I know it’s not true but I’ll believe it and say it anyway.”

      I’m gobsmacked.

  2. I have represented clients who have gone to jail in codes cases prosecuted by Gerry. Quite recently. And belittle codes officers? That’s ridiculous. The codes officer is his right-hand-man in these matters. Those statements are utter BS founded upon absolutely zero real facts.

    Regarding conflicts of interest… there aren’t too many attorneys and we are in a small town. Conflicts are inevitable. It’s absurd to attack a Corporation Counsel with a long-established local practice for having conflicts of interest.

    Also… “slumlords…” nice language from an elected official.

    • Peter,

      “I have represented clients who have gone to jail in codes cases prosecuted by Gerry”. Name one case please because no one has ever gone to jail for a city housing code case by Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis.

      • Luis,

        Peter is referring to ‘Slumlords’ as used by Ms. Hatzenbuhler, a duly elected official. No one is challenging your record; you are challenging Corp Counsel’s record so your record has nothing to do with this topic.

      • Peter,

        I heard No such thing from any of the City of Amsterdam (4) code enforcement officials today, about anyone ever in the city of Amsterdam going to jail over any of their code enforcement cases. That is hysterical. They write up the accusatory instrument which is the document that charges a person, corporation, business with the violation that drives the court case.

        Plus if you were even remotely truthful Flip, would of found such evidence in his complilation.

      • Luis,

        You accuse me now of lying or fabricating facts: “Plus if you were even remotely truthful Flip, would of found such evidence in his complilation.”

        I show 2 cases of jail time in the codes data (I will not identify the parties by name but provide enough for someone to fact check me):
        Case 1) Initials of party: JC
        Dockets: 2012-0353, 0354, 0355, 0681
        Jail time: 27 days
        Housing fine: $750

        Case 2) Initials of party: DC
        Docket #: Not provided
        DOI: 5/15/2013
        Jail time: 15 days
        Housing fine: $750

        I continue to put forth facts; you continue to level baseless accusations against me as somehow not being truthful. I back up what I say and if I’m proven wrong, I’ll admit it. You resort to a personal attack on my integrity to mask the fact that you have nothing to counter.

        I put forth facts supporting Peter’s comment and rendering your statement untrue. I’ve told you where my data comes from (NY State Office of Courts and public City of Amsterdam documents) so if you want to build your argument, you have enough in what I cited to research and then bring forth facts to the contrary.

      • I don’t care what you heard. Two people went to jail in one week over codes violations and one of the codes officers was sitting in the courtroom as they cuffed the guys. You’re wrong. Period.

      • Peter

        I know the case your referring too. They did not go to jail because of the code official, although they were held in a cell for a very short time as they were picked up by APD to show for court. Never not show when Judge Aison say’s so.

        If your an Attorney you would know only a Judge can issue a warrant and not us code officials. So when the Judge says return on this date, something those gentleman didnt do, so they found out what the Judge can do.

      • You certainly do not know the caseS to which I am referring then as both men were sentenced to several weeks in jail for failing to remedy codes violations that lingered.

      • Flip,

        I dont know how you are coming up with this info but No one had gone to jail over city of Amsterdam housing code enforcement cases under Gerry DeCusatis or any corp. Counsel in Amsterdam city court for 27 days or any days.

        You can state statistics but you are incorrect in your assertation. Could a person sit in jail for not abiding to the Judges orders under a codes case as in the two guys that were picked up by the police for not showing up to court when Judge Aison told them, yes.

        But no one has gone to jail after being found guilty of violating city housing codes. That is absolutly not true why because I just got done talking to ever City code official on this subject just yesterday. All 4 Inspectors and 8 firefighters from Amsterdam we were together for a Residential Sprinkler Class yesterday.

        You can state your statistics but I asked the questions to these inspectors and got their answers directly. They write up the charges that brings violators to court.

    • Peter,

      Also The Corporation Counsel is not elected.

      By the way I had his slum lord client(s) fined thousands of dollars in Amsterdam Unified City Court to back up my statements Flip? Help yourself to verifying my comments. I can stand by them.

      • I never said he was elected. He’s an attorney. We sometimes represent people others might find undesirable. It’s part of our jobs.

  3. Most people don’t sue crackpots, but someday she might kick the wrong hornets nest and find herself having to try and tap dance her way out under oath….

  4. Flip,

    You should break down your statistics and remove other than “housing code enforcement cases”. Your noting packaged statistics because your not identifying the different forms of codes in the City of Amsterdam Code book and there are many. Doesn’t mean your numbers are not correct just out of context in meaning.

    In other words parking tickets (city code), dogs running at large (city code) and every other city code fine and case number are included in your statistics. Read up on the differences between housing/building codes and all other codes.

    As I clearly stated in my other comment “Sidewalks not getting cleared of snow” tell us from your research how much in fines was collected over these years? Anyone can play with numbers and statistics but you should clearly identify and catalog your research accordingly. As I also stated and you didn’t include any real research on holding landlords accountable/fined for housing code violations. I see no researched statistics on anything relating to this code enforcement.

    • Luis,

      You must be joking. You made a very clear claim:
      I suppose no one sees something wrong within the city law dept.? It’s not the work load because

        we have never heard of a city code enforcement case settlement with a landlord in Amsterdam now in 7 years.

      How about you bring your numbers to prove your claim. I’ve spent more than enough time compiling the data; why don’t you invest some time in actual analysis and research before making unfounded accusations. I’ve been down this road with you before and you do nothing to back up your statements when challenged other than change the topic. You said that zero, nada, zilch cases were brought in seven years — that’s unquestionably not true. I showed you the numbers. Bring me your numbers and your methodology to support your statement and I’ll gladly post it.

      I’m not doing your work for you to show all the nuances with codes; you certainly don’t seem to be nuanced in your accusations against Corp Counsel.

      Bring your numbers and also explain how Corp Counsel never goes to court yet Ms. Hatzenbuhler claims he’s present in court to mock the codes officer. You and Diane need to get your stories straight.

      • Flip,

        Yes I wrote “we have never heard of a city code enforcement case settlement with a landlord in Amsterdam now in 7 years.” When have we heard of code enforcement results?

      • Flip,

        Let me give you an example of one of my experiences in Amsterdam code enforcement. This is by no means common but not at all uncommon. I took an Aldermen for a ride one day. Took him out for what was to be a 1/2 day thing. We went out on my first inspection, garbage at the curb. Wrong day. I spoke to the tenant received the information I needed and without much fuss it was done.

        When the Alder person got in the car with me. He told me “what the hell was that”? Well let’s just say he felt concerned for my safety as I asked questions and had himself prepared to defend me with means that surprised the heck out of me. That Alder person didn’t finish the day and never again wanted to go out on an inspection from someone within the City Codes Dept.

        Funny, as I was talking to them guys today and we discussed code enforcement in our juristictions.

  5. Flip,

    Your correct in saying Code Enforcement is understaffed, we can agree there. Then again I don’t know how much time you have spent doing code enforcement inspections in Amsterdam. I would gladly show you and educate you on what its like to do code enforcement in Amsterdam. More so how to do it better.

    Unfortunately anyone can say they know something “I love the truth. It’s the facts I’m not a fan of”.

    How does someone know the facts if they don’t know the truth?

  6. “Yes I wrote ‘we have never heard of a city code enforcement case settlement with a landlord in Amsterdam now in 7 years.’ When have we heard of code enforcement results?”

    Funny, because I’ve defended many of them against Gerry that have “settled” with the violator paying fines and being taken back to court until the violation was rectified.

  7. Peter, you were not in court the day GD made the comment about Tom. There were no housing complaints taken to court in the first three and half years because GD would not accept the accusatory that had been used for years and worked perfectly well. What he did was dilly dally around making Tom rewrite them till he finally found one he liked along with the judge. Now, I will continue to call landlords that do not maintain their properties, inside and out, slumlords if the term fits. No all landlords are slumlords. And the mayor has used that very terminology, you call it what it is, in this case slumlord. Those are landlords, property owners that do not provide proper working stoves, furnaces, refrigerators, mow the grass, fix leaks and repair broken things. And often times they collect their rent and do not pay their taxes and let the house become foreclosed upon.

    (Kinda like what he is doing right now with putting the Gen Foreman of DPW under the city engineer where he belongs. We have told GD repeated times what we the CC wants by charter and he is dilly dallying and writing in circles, so as to keep it under the mayor) Have your snow banks been removed yet ?

    • Your comment implies that Judge Aison and Gerry determined that the forms were not legally sufficient to constitute an accusatory instrument. There are requirements regarding the information they need to contain. There is a lot of legal brainpower and experience between the two of them, so I would be willing to bet that they were correct. Though, your statement shows (as is usual) that you do not understand the law.

      Just because something was done one way for a long time doesn’t mean it was the correct way, especially around here.

      While I might not have been in court the single day you are referring to, Gerry and Tom have always worked well together when I am in Court.

      There is no legal requirement that a landlord provide a stove, refrigerator, or mow the lawn.

      Maybe he’d be able to work faster if you didn’t take away his assistant.

      • Peter,

        For your information as you were not involved in writing code case accusatory instruments under previous administrations and prior corporation counsels, and one of them today a judge and then after when Attorney DeCusatis changed them all.

        Your not aware those forms were put together in order to pass the ridged demands of Judge Aison. They worked before GD because we made sure they would be approved. They didn’t after GD changed them. Gerry would not listen to us when we told him and the Mayor to use the forms we had used against GD. You really had to be there to know this.

        Attorney DeCusatis forms were rejected by Judge Aison for approx. the first 4 years in office after GD came in and told codes everything we were doing was wrong. Even though he lost 90% of his codes cases to us while representing Amsterdam’s worst landlords. Comments made in the court rooms don’t usually make it out of the room but Tom and I, I asure know who Gerry represents but of course Tom will be more diplomatic then me. When the cases finally passed Judge Aison after some 4 years then local Attorney Robert Kryz had a good number of cases thrown out. I hear today case are filed, someone go to jail absolutely NOT.

      • Luis,

        Explain to me this statement: “Attorney DeCusatis forms were rejected by Judge Aison for approx. the first 4 years in office after GD came in and told codes everything we were doing was wrong. Even though he lost 90% of his codes cases” and how you can also claim that Corp Counsel never brought cases to court in 7 years.

        You realize that both statements cannot be simultaneously true.

        I think you and Diane need to sit down and get your stories straight as it’s getting a bit embarrassing. I’ll even buy the coffee and a donut/muffin so you two can sit down and sort it out in time for the Monday talk shows.

        I’m going to close the thread unless you or Diane put forth some data supporting your statements.

      • I just told you I have personal knowledge of multiple people being jailed. You clearly have none, but continue to insist based upon your misinformed assumptions. There is no point in continuing to argue with you. It appears you and the alderwoman are cut from the same “I know it’s not true but I’ll believe it and say it anyway” cloth. Good day.

      • Peter,

        I already told you that was not GD or the code official. That incident was all Judge Aison because he told these guys to show for court that day and they blew him off. Only Judges can issue arrest warrants in order to have people picked up by the police, not code official’s or corporation counsels.

        Statistics don’t tell what actually happens in court. They just give you chunks of general information. You need to dig for real facts or be there to really know what the statistics really mean. Not saying I have been there recently.

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