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'Anybody out there' to fill South?; Council's vacancy needs more choices

With no existing candidate garnering enough votes, the Common Council is again accepting applicants for the vacant South District seat.

"We want to open it up and see if there's anybody out there who's palatable to everybody," Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said Monday afternoon.

Interested people must submit a letter and resume to the City Clerk's Office by 5 p.m. Friday.

In its initial search to fill the spot vacated by Michael P. Kearns after he won a special election to the Assembly on March 20, 11 people submitted resumes and letters for the position. Six were interviewed by the Council on April 9.

Those six will remain eligible for the appointment, Smith said.

Several candidates emerged as serious contenders, but none was able to get the support of five lawmakers, the number of votes needed for appointment.

After the interviews, Smith said three candidates emerged: Matthew Fisher, a former aide to Kearns; Bryan J. Bollman, senior aide to Council President Richard A. Fontana; and Anthony "A.J." Verel.

Fisher had the support of four lawmakers, as well as the support of committeemen in the South District.

The other candidates included Linda M. Bain, Patrick B. Burke and Joseph M. Gartler III.

Fontana said Monday morning that he planned to talk with some of his colleagues about the issue and that there was a chance someone could be appointed today, which some Council leaders had targeted as a deadline to make the appointment.

Today was eyed because Mayor Byron W. Brown will unveil his budget proposal, and the Council will begin holding budget hearings Wednesday morning.

In order to be eligible for the appointment, candidates must be Democrats, as Kearns was, and must have lived in the South District for a year.

Since April 5, the first deadline for submitting resumes, two candidates have run into issues affecting their candidacy.

Questions were raised about Bollman's residency, after it was found he passed election petitions for his boss last July that stated he lived in the Lovejoy District, not South.

Verel's past also became an issue after The Buffalo News found he was arrested twice for burglary and spent two years in prison, according to state parole records. Verel has disputed those records and the second arrest.

Anyone appointed to the South seat would hold office until the end of this year. An election will be held in the fall for the final three years of the term.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com