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AS NIAGARA FALLS
TALES OF THE STRANGE BUT TRUE

A lawyer said that?

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. exhibited an interesting courtroom style Nov. 17 while disposing, and we mean disposing, of Elmer A. Granchelli's latest lawsuit over Lockport's South Block.

Kloch swept into the courtroom without bothering to zip up his black robe. Without preliminaries, he informed both attorneys that he had found two precedents that neither of them had found. These cases, Kloch announced, "are right on point."

"I'll refund some of my fee," said Daniel A. Spitzer, the attorney the City of Lockport hired from Buffalo's prestigious Hodgson, Russ firm.

"Is there a steno?" asked the city's budget-conscious corporation counsel, John J. Ottaviano, eager to get such an offer on the record.

The last word

Kloch proceeded to demolish the argument from Randolph C. Oppenheimer, Granchelli's attorney, that the city wasn't allowed to give away a one-way street bordering the South Block to rival developer David L. Ulrich. Spitzer didn't have to say a word as Kloch did his work for him.

Oppenheimer argued that Section 159 of the City Charter required permission from affected property owners to abandon a street. Kloch said, "I did the math. The city owns more than two-thirds of the property. . . . What are they supposed to do, send a letter from themselves to themselves saying, 'This is what we intend to do to ourselves?' "

After being interrupted four times by Kloch, Oppenheimer finally managed to complete one sentence: "The city is not a property owner for the purposes of Section 159."

Kloch shot back, "They own the property. They're a property owner. I learned this in third grade. Maybe it was the Felician nuns . . . "

Oppenheimer tried to make the point that the charter meant private property owners had to give permission, but Kloch said, "Let me show you how poor your argument is."

The judge announced that he had granted a temporary restraining order against abandoning the street on the strength of a phone call from Oppenheimer, but said he wouldn't have done so if the request had been made in writing first, so unimpressed was he with Granchelli's case.

After further insistence by Oppenheimer that private property owners like Granchelli had to be consulted, Kloch finally closed the subject by declaring, "I specifically find that is not the case."

After court, Oppenheimer, seemingly unruffled, told reporters, "The ruling and the colloquy are a point of view. We disagree completely, but that's why we have judges."

What's his wife say?

Kevin P. O'Brien, Niagara County public works commissioner, is being reappointed for a second four-year term. County legislators were effusive in their praise last week.

Legislator Kyle R. Andrews, D-Wilson, called O'Brien one of the "brilliant minds" in county government.

Said Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville: "I think Kevin is a consummate professional. . . . He is a treasure in Niagara County."

O'Brien said, "I'll go home and tell my wife I'm a treasure. I'll still have to take the garbage out."

With contributions from Pam Kowalik and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.