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Council starts year on stormy note

An Olean Common Council meeting devolved into allegations of improper procedure and illegal meetings Monday night as city government started its first business of 2011.

Toward the end of the Council meeting, Mayor Linda Witte asked for nominations for Council president. Current Council President Frank Steffen, Ward 7, was renominated. His nomination was seconded, and then the nomination process closed.

Steffen's nomination went to a roll-call vote. But as the voting process began, the two freshman aldermen asked to motion for another nomination. Witte denied the motion, saying a motion could not be called during a vote. Steffen won the election by a 4-3 vote, with the two freshman aldermen voting against him, along with Alderman Linda Edstrom, Ward 4.

The two new aldermen, Jim Brady, Ward 1, and Tina Kamery, Ward 3, were sworn in Monday night, shortly before the presidential-nomination vote.

Kamery wanted to nominate Brady for Council president. Brady is more educated and more experienced with financial matters, Kamery said.

After the meeting, Brady made further allegations. Brady said Steffen violated New York open-meeting law when he called a 6 p.m. meeting Monday. Brady said he e-mailed a state official who confirmed this violated New York law because Steffen failed to notify fellow Council members and the public within the requisite time.

Brady said he would provide copies of the state official's e-mails but had not released them Monday.

"I ran for office to stop illegal activity like this," Brady said.

Steffen said no 6 p.m. meeting took place. Brady and Kamery said they managed to arrive in time for the 6 p.m. meeting, and when other aldermen found them in the meeting room, the other aldermen left without coming into the room.

Brady and Kamery expressed doubt over the Council's future relations with the mayor, and the Council's exact make-up remains uncertain. Edstrom officially resigned after Monday's meeting to take a spot on the County Legislature. Witte will now make an appointment to fill Edstrom's spot.