The Niagara Falls Library board of trustees -- a volunteer group that sued the city last year over its decision to cut library funding in half -- may have a new look if three mayoral appointments to the five-member board are approved.
Along with Library Board members, dozens of other appointments also were scheduled to be considered during today's City Council meeting in votes that could affect the new Courthouse Advisory Committee, the resurrected Tourism Advisory Board and the Board of Assessment Review.
Appointments to the Library Board gained attention last year when Mayor Vince Anello selected Muriel S. White, a former Council secretary, for a vacant seat that had temporarily been filled by former Niagara County Attorney Morton H. Abramowitz. State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle -- who sided with the board in its lawsuit and ordered the city to pay nearly $1 million to the library last year -- decided that Abramowitz had been illegally appointed by the other four board members. The mayor appoints Library Board members with Council approval.
Board members hoped that Anello would appoint Abramowitz and were upset when he named White, who is listed in a police report filed by Library Director Betty Babanoury regarding threatening letters she allegedly received at her apartment in 2004. White's appointment was indefinitely postponed by the Council until after last year's elections.
While White was never charged by police and denies that she had anything to do with the letters, the current Library Board members were relieved to see that today's proposed appointments did not include the potential conflict.
"We didn't think that [appointment] was fair to anyone," Library Board President Dolores E. Marino said.
Marino and Peggy Skotnicki, a librarian who also serves on the board, would have been elected to the board had a referendum last year approved formation of a school district library. Anello is not reappointing either woman.
"The political turmoil that was stirred up last year and some comments made by some board members, we can now put that behind us," Anello said.
The mayor is appointing the following residents:
Frank V. Roma, a former New York Power Authority employee who also would have been elected under the referendum, would serve through 2010.
Lisa C. Routhier, the president of the LaSalle Business and Professional Association, would serve through 2009.
Catherine A. Calato, a LaSalle businesswoman, would serve through 2007.
Council members said they would ask about the background of each candidate before the meeting. No resumes for the appointments were attached.
Council Chairman Charles A. Walker said he was somewhat surprised that Marino was not reappointed.
"I think she was a very strong board member and knew a lot about state law," Walker said. "But you still have Walt Garrow and Ken Hamilton. Usually no matter who the mayors have appointed, they usually seem to get right in there. Once they learn what the library does and the importance of it, they all tend to lean more to the work of the library than the [administration]."
Marino said that she was disappointed she was not reappointed but that she still will attend board meetings as the president of Friends of the Library.