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Supervisor's DWI charge draws crowd

It seemed like the residents of Evans were voting with their feet Wednesday night and that they had all headed to the Town Board meeting.

The parking lot was filled a half-hour before the meeting, and a crowd of more than 200 jammed the meeting area and spilled out into the lobby as Supervisor Robert Catalino II conducted his first meeting since his arrest Feb. 4 on drunken-driving charges. His blood-alcohol level was 0.17.

Catalino started apologizing the day of the arrest, and he hasn't stopped since. Wednesday, he apologized some more and offered residents a chance to take their shots at him or voice their support.

"Please say what you have to say; this is not going to be a lynch mob out in the audience," Catalino said. "This is going to be a meeting where you have your opportunity to speak."

The meeting got off to a raucous start with yelling from the crowd. Town Attorney Grant Zajas at one point responded by telling the audience, "I'm gonna tell you to shut up, let's have some order here" -- before later apologizing for what he called his inappropriate behavior.

Residents took their shots, too. Bob Doering, who said he had worked in government for 39 years and dealt with codes of conduct, said that how the board responded to Catalino would reflect on its dealings with employees down the road since Catalino was driving a town vehicle when he was ticketed on speeding and DWI charges when he was picked up by state troopers in Brant.

Evans couldn't treat another employee more harshly than it treats Catalino, said Doering, who said in his years in government employment in the Treasury, Navy and National Credit Union Administration he had "never seen a more incompetent office than the Town of Evans."

Town Board members said during the meeting they were nearing completion of a town policy on use of town vehicles and they were considering creation of an ethics board or committee.

Cheryl Grassia voiced support for Catalino. "I was hit by a drunk driver and I was hurt," she said. "But I think that everyone in this town is overreacting to this only because he's the supervisor of this town."

Police Chief Robert Ferguson defended the department's picking Catalino up at the town line after his arrest and taking him home. "It is not a grand prize, it's a matter of process," Ferguson said. "It's my decision, and it's pretty common in law enforcement."

A retired police officer said municipalities such as Hamburg and Brant routinely take people to the edge of town to hand them off to neighboring police to help them get home.

Since his arrest, Catalino has resigned his position as boys junior varsity basketball coach at Lake Shore High School. He is still a part-time physical-education teacher there.

Catalino is due in Brant Court on Feb. 27, a day he said he can't wait to put behind him. "If I could do it tonight and get it over, I would," he said. "I have to go to court.

Catalino said he expects to speak with school officials in the coming days to determine whether he will continue as varsity baseball coach in the spring.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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