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LEGISLATURE BACKS ANTHONY FOR NFTA POST DESMOND'S LAST-MINUTE WITHDRAWAL LEFT INCUMBENT UNOPPOSED IN BID

Ronald J. Anthony should continue in his role as commissioner on the NFTA after the Erie County Legislature nominated him Thursday as its representative on the 11-member governing board.

In a last-minute change of plans, Legislator Joseph R. Desmond, D-Eden, withdrew his bid to join the board of commissioners of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, opening the door to Anthony's selection.

Anthony had been considered a sure bet to be the legislators' pick, until freshman lawmaker Desmond stepped forward two weeks ago. Insiders predicted Desmond's colleagues would be bound to support him, thus ruining Anthony's chances.

Anthony, who is considered a tough financial watchdog on the board and also an ally of Mayor Griffin, admitted the turn of events left him wondering if his days at the NFTA were drawing to a close.

"It was a little rocky," he said with a chuckle. "But I felt continual optimism. I've had support on both sides of the aisle for quite some time."

Legislature Chairman Roger I. Blackwell cast the only "no" in the 15-1 vote for Anthony. Blackwell said that his was not a vote against Anthony, a nine-year veteran of the NFTA, whom he greatly respects.

"My vote is consistent with my support of Joe Desmond," Blackwell said. "He had asked me for my support, and I gave it to him."

Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, did not attend Thursday's session.

Desmond, 24, received a round of applause after he announced his withdrawal.

The Legislature took no action Thursday on the contract that will govern the county's fiscal relationship with the NFTA. Lawmakers said although they don't expect any problems with its approval, they wanted more time to review it.

It will be the focus of discussion at next week's meeting of the Legislature Transportation Committee.

In other action the lawmakers:

Voted to establish a subcommittee of the Plastics Task Force to study technical aspects of the proposed ban on plastic food wraps and containers.

Approved an additional $50,000 planning grant for the organizing committee of the World University Games.

Approved the purchase of a new computer system for the Division of Information and Support Services to automate health benefit records. The system will be acquired from OA Systems Inc. and AT&T Corp. at a cost of $118,618.

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