Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble was fired from her post as a special assistant to state Sen. Anthony R. Nanula because she was putting the interests of her constituents above the interests of his constituents, the senator said Friday.
Miss Kimble, a Democrat who represents the County Legislature's 2nd District in Niagara Falls, said that her district is completely within Nanula's 57th Senate District and that the constituent issues she handles are often the same as those of the Democratic senator's constituents.
"Over time, Ms. Kimble's commitment to the work of (the) Niagara Falls office has lagged, as she allowed her legislative duties with the Niagara County Legislature to conflict with her ability and willingness to make her service to me a priority.
"I feel strongly that she permitted her interests as a county legislator to distract her from fully focusing on the concerns of my constituents, so much so that I fear her effectiveness in representing me at public events and handling constituent concerns has critically diminished," said Nanula, whose district also serves Grand Island and part of Buffalo.
Ms. Kimble was a county legislator when Nanula hired her last year.
Surprised that he criticized her job performance, Miss Kimble said, "So many times the problems experienced by Anthony's constituents were the same problems my constituents were also experiencing, which made me a natural for handling those problems.
"Obviously, the work I did for Anthony was not good enough for him, but I've always worked hard for the residents of Niagara Falls. I would challenge Anthony to show me where my work performance was anything but exemplary."
As a special assistant to the senator, Miss Kimble received a salary of about $20,000 annually. She makes $12,000 as a county legislator.
Nanula said, "Ms. Kimble simply did not return a level of performance sufficient to justify her position on my staff. Everyone else currently on my staff, though, has always made their work for me a priority in their lives. . . . Thus, since Ms. Kimble did so much on her own to deplete her worth as a member of my Senate staff, the decision to terminate her was frankly not a difficult one, once it became clear that cuts were necessary within my office."
A 20 percent cutback in funding to his Senate operation, Nanula said, forced him "to look for ways of trimming expenses."
Nanula also said reports that he dismissed Miss Kimble because of "political differences" she had with another Niagara County legislator "are not only inaccurate, but reckless and irresponsible."
Miss Kimble had received word that her services were terminated "immediately" on Tuesday, the day after she voted to deny Dennis F. Virtuoso a county voucher to make a trip to Washington, D.C., with Nanula.
On Monday, Virtuoso, a Democrat who represents the County Legislature's 4th District in Niagara Falls, asked the Legislature's Finance Committee to have the county pay for his planned trip to meet with federal officials.
The meeting in Washington on Wednesday had been billed as an administration overview of the effect of proposed federal budget cuts.
The two Republicans on the six-person county Finance Committee voted against Virtuoso's request, as did Miss Kimble and fellow Democrat David A. May. Virtuoso said Friday that he paid his own way for his trip.
Miss Kimble, who says she is now looking for new full-time employment, is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that seeks to force Niagara Falls to elect City Council members by district. A federal judge had ruled that the present at-large system for Council elections can remain, but that ruling is being appealed in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. Miss Kimble, the first African-American woman elected to the Legislature, said she is seeking Council districts so that minorities can be elected.
A federal lawsuit involving Niagara County legislative districts led to the creation of a Niagara Falls Legislature district with a majority of African-American voters, who elected Ms. Kimble their legislator in November 1993.