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Three looking to fill board seat face second interview

Three candidates for a vacancy on the Niagara County Community College board of trustees will be interviewed Wednesday by a special County Legislature committee.

Retiring Legislator Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, is one of the candidates being brought in for a second interview for the unsalaried seven-year trustee term.

The others are retired NCCC professor and faculty union chief Anthony S. Gullo and Lillian S. Williams, an associate professor of African-American studies at the University at Buffalo.

Legislator Michael A. Hill, R-Hartland, said the three were chosen from a field of 11 candidates his committee interviewed Oct. 15.

The only Democrat on the search committee, Legislator Renae Kimble of Niagara Falls, said Needler's presence on the list brings politics to the table.

She said during the first round of interviews, one of the applicants, without mentioning Needler by name, said that if a legislator were chosen, it would demonstrate the process was just a sham.

Hill denied the fix is in. He said he hasn't settled on whom he will support.

"When [Needler's] name came up during a caucus, I said, 'Mal, could you step out?' " Hill said. "He hasn't applied any pressure."

The NCCC seat is to be filled by a vote of the full GOP-controlled Legislature Dec. 4.

Kimble said, "I think Mal is knowledgeable, but it would be perceived as being political."

Needler said, "I haven't asked for any favoritism. If it was a political thing, the caucus would have done it without having any interviews."

He said, "I think I bring things to the table that none of the other candidates bring." He said he has experience in the Legislature, which is the college's sponsor.

Kimble noted that Legislator William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, already serves on the NCCC board. She said choosing Needler, who ends a 20-year Legislature career next month, "would be redundant."

Kimble said, "I would hope they go on qualifications. I think Dr. Williams and Tony Gullo would have the experience."

Williams, a Niagara Falls resident, is a leader in the field of African-American studies and won The Buffalo News Outstanding Citizen Award in 2006 for her work in commemorating the Niagara Movement, an early 20th century precursor to the NAACP.

Gullo, a Lockport resident who taught anthropology at NCCC, was named professor emeritus earlier this year. He was credited with founding a successful program to increase Tuscarora Nation enrollment at NCCC.

Besides Hill and Kimble, the other search committee members are Republicans John D. Ceretto of Lewiston and Peter E. Smolinski of North Tonawanda.

Ceretto and Smolinski said they won't make up their minds until after Wednesday's interviews.

"We didn't ask all the questions we wanted to the first time," Smolinski said. Interviews in the first round were limited to 10 minutes. This time, the window is 20 to 30 minutes.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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