The Westfield City Council’s attempt to exercise authority over Grand Park Sports Campus’ vendor contracts is in limbo now that the city’s administration and council members disagree over the resolution’s validity.
Westfield Mayor Andy Cook passively vetoed a resolution Thursday that attempts to shed light on allegations of missing money at Grand Park. The resolution approved last week would’ve required city council review and approval of Grand Park’s contracts and eliminated admission fees for residents, but the city’s legal counsel believes the action has no teeth.
By not signing the resolution within 10 days of its approval, Cook effectively vetoed the measure and returned the matter to the council. The council could reconsider the resolution at its July 27 meeting and overturn the mayoral veto with a two-thirds vote, but Council President Joe Edwards wasn’t sure Thursday if the council would take up the matter.
The resolution was first approved by the council by a 6-0 vote, with one abstaining.
“The council can adopt any resolution or ordinance they wish,” City of Westfield attorney Brian Zaiger said. “Whether it’s enforceable or not is a matter of if it’s challenged, or even put into play.”
Troy Patton, an at-large member in his first year on the council and author of the resolution, said the council does have a stake in the sports park’s contracts.
Patton said Westfield-based Bullpen Tournaments LLC, which manages Grand Park’s ball diamonds, had failed to pay the city $470,000 it owed as of May 31, according to a 2014 revenue-sharing agreement with the city.
The new resolution does not address that specific contract or allegations against Bullpen, but instead requires council approval for all current diamond and field contracts before they’re extended into next year. That oversight also applies to monthly agreements made after June 30, and requires those deals be memorialized in writing and that all previously agreed-upon amounts are paid before a contract is extended.
Additionally, the resolution sets a new standard for the city council to approve all Grand Park contracts starting next year.
However, the city’s administration maintains that the city council may not dictate how Grand Park conducts business because the Westfield Redevelopment Authority owns the sports campus, and the Westfield Redevelopment Commission is in charge of its operations and all contracts.
When the council transferred Grand Park to those quasi-governmental commissions in 2017, they “gave control and dominion over the property to those entities,” Zaiger told the IBJ.
Joe Plankis, president of the redevelopment commission and one of three mayoral appointees, said the commission’s contracts with Bullpen Tournaments have changed and the city has actually come out ahead on the deal.
“There’s no monkeying around going on or any of that stuff,” Plankis said.
When asked if the redevelopment commission would consider allowing council review of its contracts regardless of the resolution, Plankis declined to answer.
“At this point, we’re kind of waiting. I don’t want to get ahead of anything and speculate because I think that’s a waste of time,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s legally required in the role we have.”
Patton said he was surprised by the mayor’s veto.
“I can’t believe he is digging his heels into something so simple and easy to rectify,” Patton said. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, to be honest.”