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Haxton rebuked, fined for code lapses Councilwoman urged to resign

Lackawanna 1st Ward Councilwoman Andrea Haxton had a tough day Thursday.

First, her balky knee buckled on her way into Lackawanna City Court for her sentencing.

Then she was fined the maximum $1,000 fine for four building-code violations.

And then, after needing some assistance to walk through a crew of inquiring reporters, Haxton received a public tongue-lashing -- in absentia -- from the city's mayor, who suggested she resign her post.

"It's about time that she stopped blaming everyone else and took responsibility for her actions," Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr. told reporters in his office following Haxton's sentencing. "Frankly, I've had enough of it. She should resign for the good of the city."

Lackawanna City Court Judge Louis P. Violanti fined Haxton the maximum $250 each on the four code violations for a building she owns at 297 Ridge Road, at Ingham Avenue. Haxton was found guilty during a trial last summer.

Violanti expressed shock over the unsafe condition of the building, telling Haxton that she should "thank your lucky stars" that none of the tenants was poisoned, that there was no fire and that the building didn't collapse.

The judge and others have pointed out that a pair of 2-by-4s was being used as a support beam and that the building was in severe danger of collapsing.

"These conditions existed, and you allowed tenants to live [there]," the judge told her. "That's what's shocking me the most."

Before the sentencing, Haxton's attorney, Norman LeBlanc, told Violanti that his client has indicated a very sincere effort to bring the building into compliance and save it.

But Kenneth A. Patricia, acting as a special prosecutor for the city, took issue with LeBlanc's characterization.

"She's done absolutely nothing [to repair the building] for the last 9 1/2 months other than talk," Patricia said.

Following her sentencing, Haxton declined to talk with reporters, other than to say that she hadn't planned for her knee to go out as she walked into the courtroom.

But last Friday, Haxton did comment after she failed to show up in City Court for sentencing, and an arrest warrant was issued for her. Nobody had told her about her scheduled Friday court appearance, Haxton said, and after she heard about the warrant, she went to City Hall, where she was handcuffed.

At the time, Haxton insisted she had been set up by political adversaries in City Hall.

"This is a political witch hunt to discredit me in front of the people that elected me," she said Friday. "I was set up to be made a mockery of."

But Polanski, who met with reporters in his office Thursday without Haxton present, called her public battles a "never-ending saga," saying that it has become a disgrace for the City of Lackawanna.

The mayor talked about elected officials having to live up to a higher standard of conduct.

"It's your responsibility to conduct yourself in a proper manner," he said. "This individual has not."

Polanski also was asked about Haxton's failure to pay city taxes. She's been accused of being three years in arrears on city and Erie County property taxes for a commercial property she owns.

"That's a total disgrace," he said. "If you're a public official, and you can't pay your taxes, you should resign."

Haxton, he added, somehow was able to afford a trip to Puerto Rico a few months ago.

Polanski, who claimed that Haxton is "anti-everything" and sees conspiracies against her everywhere, also dismissed the notion that she was a victim of an "old boys club" in Lackawanna government.

"Any other public official, they would be lynching him," the mayor said.

Polanski doesn't expect Haxton to resign or apologize for her conduct. "She has a responsibility to every citizen in this city to apologize for her actions," he said. "And you won't see it."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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