Share this article

print logo

LAWSUIT DRAGS ON IN CHALLENGE OF DOYLE CITY JOB, SCHOOL POST

A 10-month-old State Supreme Court case in which the Common Council president is trying to force John C. Doyle out of his city youth director post because he holds an elective job as at-large member of the Buffalo Board of Education is meandering.

It is moving with such deliberate speed that Doyle has served one-fifth of his five-year School Board term without any sign of a decision.

Court sources indicated that at one point recently, Doyle was willing to resign his city job if he did not have to pay back the salary he received since July 1, and Council President George K. Arthur would agree, if Arthur in turn received payment for the court costs.

Later, the sources said that the settlement fell apart when Mayor Griffin turned it down.

Doyle and Griffin did not return telephone calls seeking their comments. Arthur declined to comment.

"I don't have anything to say about that," said R. Peter Morrow III, an assistant corporation counsel representing Doyle. "I don't think there is any basis for settlement I know of."

And three weeks ago, Justice Joseph S. Forma, who presided over the case from the beginning, announced that final testimony convinced him that as a former city judge and Common Council member, he might have a conflict of interest.

Administrative Law Judge James B. Kane reassigned the case to State Supreme Court Justice Leo J. Fallon.

Arthur's attorney, Henry E. Wyman, will ask Fallon to rule from the bench that Doyle can no longer serve as youth director. Wyman claims that under the City Charter and past court rulings, Doyle is a policy-maker and lost his eligibility to hold his city job the day he joined the School Board.

The City Law Department doesn't agree.

"We're waiting to see what happens on the assignment," said Morrow. "I believe we still have legal arguments to be made."

It's Arthur's and Wyman's position that Doyle holds a $44,000-a-year policy-making job at the whim of Mayor Griffin.

Arthur argues that Doyle cannot act independently of the mayor in his $5,000-a-year School Board job.

"There is no reason to question that Doyle is Mayor Griffin's clone, except that he is taller and, I submit, better looking," said Wyman.

Forma said that at the start of the case last August, he discussed with the parties that he knew Arthur, Doyle and Griffin personally. He said he told the parties that he did not personally believe he needed to withdraw, and they did not demand his withdrawal.

His former contacts did not become a problem for him until the very end of the six-day hearing when four men he knows personally -- including a youth counselor -- testified, Forma said. As a city judge, Forma said, he had worked with counselor Richard May.

May testified that the youth director ran the youth department. This contradicted Doyle's claim that he simply carried out orders and policy of the commissioner of human resources. "The credibility of Richard May became a central issue," said Forma. "I worked with him really extensively in City Court. I thought he was a great guy and helpful with kids."

The other witnesses whose testimony were central to the case, Forma said, were Arthur; James W. Burns, a former commissioner of administration and finance under the late Mayor Stanley J. Makowski, and Joseph P. Gallagher, former youth director.

Forma was appointed a council member at-large by Makowski in 1974. In the mid-1970s Forma headed the panel that revised the City Charter.

Forma said that the testimony of the last witnesses reminded him that he voted on Charter changes that affected the youth director post.

The words of that Charter figure prominently in Arthur's attempt to prove his case. City Charter Section 456 says: "No person elected or appointed to any salaried office under this act shall, during his term of office, hold any other public office."

It also says that a city official elected to any other public office automatically loses his city job.

Arthur contends that Mayor Griffin proved 12 years ago that the youth director is an appointive policy-making job when he fired Joseph Gallagher, Doyle's predecessor.

Gallagher sued, trying to keep the job, but a State Supreme Court judge held that the new mayor had a right to make political choices and to choose his own executives.

"You could say he was gone the minute I took office," the mayor said later.

Another part of the Arthur case hinges on a ruling by former corporation counsel Sara O. Naples. In 1986, she informed the Council that under the Charter James W. Comerford Jr., then newly elected Park District member of the School Board, ceased to be city commissioner of inspections and licenses the minute he was sworn in as a School Board member.

Comerford gave up the commissionership.

"While everyone realized at the outset that Judge Forma was a councilman, I don't think we recognized that the weight of the testimony of Arthur, Gallagher and Burns would play a role -- may play a role -- in the decision," said Morrow.

There are no comments - be the first to comment