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New Buffalo tech chief serves only the city, though Kaleida still pays half

Buffalo has a new chief information officer to develop a long-term plan for restructuring its Department of Management and Information Systems in an age of emerging cyber threats.

Luis E. Taveras was approved Tuesday by the Common Council as a full-time employee and not as a simultaneous consultant to Kaleida Health, as was suggested last month. Kaleida had made a “multi-year” commitment to pay half of Taveras’ $246,000 salary as part of its initiative to get more involved in the community, with what seemed to be an understanding that Taveras also would consult for the hospital system.

But though Kaleida will still pay half his salary, Taveras, a former IBM expert, will be accountable only to the Council, the mayor and the city comptroller, Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball said during a committee meeting last week in which he was asked to answer questions from Council members and to clear up some confusion surrounding Taveras’ hiring.

“If there was to be any consulting arrangement (with Kaleida) going forward, which I don’t really envision, but if there were, he would have to get” approval from the mayor, the Council president and the comptroller, Ball said.

The confusion about which entity Taveras would be accountable to came up at a Council meeting two weeks ago when Taveras was “operating under conversations that had originally taken place between the city and Kaleida,” Ball said.

The city’s Law Department noted that there could be a loyalty issue if an employee was drawing salaries from both the city and an outside source.

At some point, Taveras was a Kaleida consultant for a short time, Ball said.

“But there was never the intention for Taveras to be anything other than a full-time city employee operating full-time,” Ball said.

Taveras wanted the ability to speak with Kaleida’s experts if a technical issue comes up that had arisen before at Kaleida, to try to utilize any expertise that Kaleida might have to correct issues immediately. But that action would need to be approved by the triumvirate of elected officials, Ball said.

Taveras’ salary of $246,000 includes the city’s budgeted amount of $123,000 for the position plus the matching donation from Kaleida.

“Basically it would be a donation to the city in the amount that the city would pay. … So that the salary would be basically double that which is on the books,” Ball said. The city can accept that donation through the standard donation process, and there would be a budget and personnel amendment reflecting that change.

“Kaleida is looking at it from the perspective of just trying to do something good for the community and for the city in which they’re situated,” Ball said, and is not "expecting anything in return.”

But Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk voted against the appointment Tuesday, saying such a salary structure could set a precedent that could open a Pandora’s box.

“What’s to stop some outside entity coming in and saying, ‘Hi, what a great councilman Franczyk is. We’re just going to double his pay ... ' even though I’m responsible to the city, not to them,” said Franczyk, the lone dissenter.

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