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Search begins for successor as labor chief returns home

Interviews will begin soon for a new director of labor relations in the Town of Tonawanda, where the man who held the job since 2008 decided to return to his Town of Wheatfield home.

"The whole thing was, I had to live apart from my wife," Charles J. Naughton said Monday. "She remained in Niagara County."

His resignation letter, dated April 1, was received and filed at Monday's Town Board meeting.

Hired in June 2008, Naughton was bound by residency requirements. Tired of living alone, he told town officials and his landlord a couple of months ago about his plans to leave.

The job was advertised in publications geared toward legal professionals and online, town officials said. "We will be starting to interview, I believe, later this week," said Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana.

Naughton's move home is professional, as well. He's back at Clayton & Bergevin Law Offices, the Niagara Falls firm where he was working before accepting the town job.

Still, his ties with the town aren't completely severed.

Last month, the board approved a retainer agreement with Clayton & Bergevin to handle day-to-day labor relations/labor organization matters. Towns routinely contract with law firms that have expertise in specific areas.

When Naughton was hired, he was given six months to meet the town's residency requirement. That deadline then was extended by three months.

"The idea was, we would sell our house, find a nice lot in Tonawanda" and build anew, Naughton said. "We spent the first six months looking for property and at houses."

"In the end, we said, 'Rent a place,' so I rented a house," he said.

But his wife, Deborah, had her own career in Niagara County. And the landlord of his leased three-bedroom house on Orchard Drive didn't allow dogs; the family pets remained in Wheatfield.

Naughton said he and his wife saw each other mostly on weekends and vacations. "She's been a good sport," he said. "Frankly, I got sick and tired of living alone."

Meanwhile, there were challenges to Naughton's residency, which resulted in an investigation of his status by the town's Legal Department and other entities, as well.

Residency, not domicile, is required by the Town Code, Deputy Town Attorney John W. Dorn wrote in response to a complaint emailed last year by Michael J. Vishion Sr., a retired town police officer. "Residency means that the person's primary place of abode is in the Town. It is a lesser standard than domicile which requires abode and intent to permanently reside in one place," Dorn wrote.

Vishion, arguably Naughton's harshest critic, is being sued for alleged defamation by Naughton. That lawsuit, filed in December, is pending.

Commenting on Naughton's departure, Vishion said Monday night: "It's about time."

"He never held the position legally," said Vishion, a former union representative who maintains that domicile is the established practice in the residency rule.