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With an eye toward 2008, board seat will be filled

Democratic lawmakers advocated downsizing the Tonawanda Town Board, and they're sticking to it.

For 2008.

Meanwhile, the town's Democratic Committee was to meet Wednesday night to screen hopefuls for the Town Board vacancy created by the resignation of John J. Flynn, who was appointed a town justice. The board term runs through the end of this year.

The Town Board's Democratic majority will discuss the committee's recommendation and intends to get the issue on the agenda for Monday's meeting, Councilman Daniel J. Crangle said Wednesday.

"We did not downsize for 2007 -- that's for 2008," Crangle said.

November's referendum called for reducing the membership of the Town Board from six to four, effective Jan. 1, 2008. When the terms of three councilmen expire this year -- the seat formerly held by Flynn, as well as Crangle's and that of Councilman John E. Donnelly -- only one will be on the ballot in November.

"The basic reason [for filling the vacancy] is so we don't have a deadlock of a 3-3 vote," Crangle said.

Though votes on contentious issues often split along party lines, that is not always the case.

Crangle cited an October vote to designate an insurance broker. Councilman Joseph H. Emminger, a Democrat, voted no, along with Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline and Donnelly, who are Republicans.

"If that happens during the year, then what happens?" Crangle asked.

Crangle said he consulted Town Attorney Daniel T. Cavarello about the vacancy.

"The town law gives the power to the board to appoint a person to fill the vacancy," Cavarello said Wednesday. If the board cannot agree on a replacement or neglects to fill the vacancy, he said, the governor has the discretion to call a special election.

Some legal opinions suggest that it is also possible that a town resident could initiate a court proceeding to force the board to make an appointment or hold a special election, Cavarello said.

"There are certainly some practical considerations as to whether or not the seat should be filled," Cavarello continued. Having an even number of members could lead to voting deadlocks, meaning that such measures would not pass, and a quorum of four members would still be needed to conduct business.

"The board has to look at what is the best thing for running town government," Cavarello said.

After learning of Flynn's resignation last week, Moline adjusted assignments to Town Board committees to reflect a six-member board. During the board's work session Tuesday afternoon, Crangle asked what would happen should the vacancy be filled.

"This is the first I've heard," Moline said. "Would I change my committee assignments if the board decided to add another member?"

Moline could not be reached to comment Wednesday.


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