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Law firm could face cease-and-desist order

The Cellino & Barnes law firm might be slapped with a cease-and-desist order as city officials try to remove from the airwaves a television spot that they insist was improperly filmed in Common Council Chambers.

Council Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana confirmed Friday that he has asked the city's Law Department to explore the feasibility of issuing a cease-and-desist order.

The spot was filmed on a Saturday in June by a local filmmaker who told city officials he was reshooting footage for a movie about Buffalo. While the commercial is actually included in one scene of the film, the spot also is being aired on television stations.

"They had no clearance whatsoever to shoot a commercial in our chambers. It was misrepresentation, plain and simple," Fontana said Friday.

While the city allows filmmakers to use the building for movies, officials said commercials have always been off-limits. In fact, the city has turned down requests from other local law firms who wanted to shoot commercials in City Hall.

The Lovejoy District lawmaker said he has been consulting with Timothy A. Ball, the Council's chief legal adviser. Fontana said he's cautiously optimistic that the city can issue a cease-and-desist order that targets the commercial, but he's waiting for final word from interim Corporation Counsel David Rodriguez.

The issuance of a cease-and-desist order could be a precursor to a legal fight if the commercial is not pulled.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said he supports taking steps to remove the commercial from the airwaves.

"It's disgraceful. If they're not going to remove it on their own out of respect for the chambers, then we should take the action," LoCurto said.

Cellino & Barnes could not be reached Friday to comment on the city's threatened court action.

Earlier this week, the law firm's chief operating officer said the firm does not intend to stop using the commercial. Daryl Ciambella told The Buffalo News the firm spent "tens of thousands of dollars" to produce the spot, adding that the city's building superintendent was present for the entire shoot and never objected.

Ciambella added that the commercial was done "very tastefully" and promotes the city.

Earlier this week, filmmaker Peter McGennis apologized to city officials for what he characterized as a "misunderstanding." He said he had no idea the city objected to shooting commercials inside the building.

"I feel terrible that anyone has come under fire for this," McGennis said.

Fontana isn't inclined to dismiss the controversy as a misunderstanding.

"They fooled us," he said.

email: bmeyer@buffnews.com