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Restaino doesn't look back in run for Assembly

Former Niagara Falls City Judge Robert M. Restaino is determined not to let his most famous public act be his last.

That's why Restaino, four years after he was removed from the bench for jailing 46 people after he thought a cellphone rang in his courtroom, announced Monday he is running for the Assembly.

"I think there's something I can offer to this community and the 145th District, in terms of being able to deliver to this district assistance to the local government and working with other state leaders to help improve life in the [city] and the 145th District in general," Restaino said Monday.

Restaino, 52, a Falls School Board member, will challenge incumbent Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, for the seat.

The lifelong city resident will run on the Democratic line and is trying to win the support of minor party leaders, he said. He has been campaigning in Niagara Falls and Grand Island on a platform of Medicaid and education reform and some environmental issues.

"I have developed what I think are some real plans to show state officials how to make government more effective," Restaino said.

Restaino, a Niagara University and University at Buffalo Law School graduate, said he learned ways to cut waste in government programs while serving since 2008 as the county's special assistant for Medicaid provider fraud.

The $89,000-a-year job, in which Restaino was paid to find fraudulent claims submitted to Medicaid, was funded through a grant. Restaino said he recently resigned from the position to run for office.

Last year, he was elected to a five-year term on the School Board, where he vowed to "call for an open discussion on the future of public education."

Restaino became a part-time City Court judge in 1996 and was elected to a 10-year term in 2001.

In March 2005, Restaino heard a repeated beeping noise from what he thought was a cellphone in his domestic violence courtroom. He questioned and eventually jailed 46 people, including 14 who spent six or seven hours behind bars. The source of the noise was never identified.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed Restaino from the bench, calling Restaino's actions "an egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power."

His attorneys lost an appeal while arguing that a heavy caseload and personal stress led to the incident and that Restaino was "only human."

"It is a part of my past," he said.

"I think voters will make their own decisions. Most of the voters in the district know and [will] determine my effectiveness based upon plans I'll present for future positions."