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The Oct. 6 tax auction was one of the year's busiest days for City Hall officials.

Three city departments, including the treasurer's office, were host to 305 bidders for 648 tax-delinquent properties.

Where did Treasurer Marilyn J. Smith spend the hectic day?

Traveling in the Middle East, according to city union leaders, who have filed a grievance against the treasurer for refusing time off to a staff member, causing the employee to lose $374 in pay.

City Hall employees who have worked under several administrations say they cannot remember any other city treasurer ever missing one of the auctions, which occur once or twice a year.

"It's unusual because the city treasurer has always been at the auction and is always running the auction," said John A. Grieco Jr., head of the city's white-collar union.

The complaint marks the second time in recent days that the union has tangled publicly with Mrs. Smith.

Sunday, The Buffalo News reported on another round of union complaints that as many as 25 low-ranking city employees are being singled out for firings during a push to enforce city residency rules.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Smith, a top aide to Mayor Masiello, continues to collect a city paycheck despite complaints that she, too, lives in the suburbs, union spokesmen say.

Grieco said union leaders have filed an improper-practice charge against the city for alleged selective enforcement of residency rules.

Just days before the Oct. 6 auction, a city official from another department visited the treasurer's office and was told by staff members that they did not know where Mrs. Smith was, or when she would be back, according to sources.

In Mrs. Smith's absence, City Finance Commissioner Eva M. Hassett said, she designated Debbie A. Renzoni, an administrator in Mrs. Smith's office, to conduct the auction. Mrs. Smith could not be reached to comment Monday.

Last month, said Grieco, Mrs. Smith denied a request for time off to a teller in her office, citing the crush of city business.

The teller, who was not identified, asked the treasurer for permission to use her remaining six days of personal leave during September and October before her scheduled retirement Oct. 8.

Grieco also said the woman wanted to take her last day of personal leave Oct. 7.

"Mrs. Smith denied the time off, saying it would seriously hamper or impede the necessary work of the department," said Grieco. As a result, he said, the woman's unused day of personal leave had to be converted into sick time, causing her to lose $374 in pay.

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