The attorney for Michael J. Norris says the Republican election commissioner may sue to prevent the Niagara County Legislature from considering a resolution calling for Norris' ouster.
Minority Leader Robert L. Seger of North Tonawanda and the other seven Democratic lawmakers are co-sponsoring a resolution on Wednesday's agenda urging the Republicans to dump Norris because of his role in the Board of Elections salary scandal.
The resolution notes that the Legislature Democrats forced the removal of Democratic Commissioner Judith M. Cirifalco, who faces two misdemeanor charges in the salary case. They issued a public statement refusing to vote for her reappointment, and Nancy L. Sharpe of Lockport got Cirifalco's job as of Jan. 1.
The resolution calls on the Republicans to do the same to Norris, who was granted immunity from prosecution by the district attorney's office in exchange for his testimony against Cirifalco and Legislator James W. Ward, R-Newfane, who was booked on one misdemeanor charge.
Norris' attorney, John J. Ottaviano, said the Democrats "have no standing to bring this resolution," because Norris' reappointment is in the hands of the Legislature's Republican caucus.
He said he and Norris will discuss whether to head for State Supreme Court to seek an injunction.
Ottaviano said Norris agreed to testify in August before the Legislature's board of inquiry into the salary situation, instead of filing a motion in court to quash the board's subpoena, only because the members, including Seger, "committed on the record that they would not use Michael as a partisan whipping boy."
"This is just what they promised they would not do," Ottaviano said.
Seger said, "I don't know what he's talking about."
The case stems from the failure to execute a 10 percent pay cut the Legislature voted for the election commissioners in December 1998. Reports by the district attorney's office and the Legislature's board of inquiry concluded that Cirifalco, Norris and Ward had acted to conceal that the commissioners' paychecks were never reduced.
Seger acknowledged that he does not expect his resolution to pass the Republican-controlled Legislature. During the Feb. 6 meeting, Seger offered a resolution asking Ward to resign. The resolution failed on a straight party-line vote.
Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster said he would expect the same fate for the Norris resolution.
Asked why the Republicans do not have the votes to reappoint Norris if they have the votes to defeat Seger's resolution, Burmaster said, "I think that could probably be done, but the whole point is to wait for the result of the testimony."
Republicans have said they are concerned that if Cirifalco is convicted, Norris, who did the same things according to the investigative reports but was given immunity, would become a political liability in an election year for the Legislature.
In September, the Niagara County Republican Committee recommended Norris for another term, but action by the Legislature was delayed so long that now, under state election law, the GOP legislators have the sole power to fill the post with anyone they want.
Norris' term expired Dec. 31.