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ALBOND IN LINE FOR RETURN TO LOVE CANAL AGENCY AS COUNTY PROBE IS DROPPED

Harvey N. Albond, who was fired as executive director of the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency amid personnel problems and internal strife in 1995, is in line for a mayoral appointment as a member of that agency.

In a related development, Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said Tuesday that a 35-month-old investigation into alleged violations of bidding and procurement policies at the Love Canal Agency, launched while Albond was its executive director, is being dropped and no criminal charges will be filed.

The City Council will consider Mayor James C. Galie's appointment of Albond as a member of the Love Canal Agency when the Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday.

The Council also will be asked to confirm the reappointments of Councilwoman Connie M. Lozinsky and Bruno Mercurio, deputy director of planning and economic development, as members of the agency. Each of the three appointments would be for a one-year term.

Albond would replace Councilman Ralph F. Aversa, who will leave the Council Dec. 31 after losing his bid for re-election last month. Aversa submitted his resignation as a member of the Love Canal Agency on Monday, Galie said.

The mayor said he believes the investigation was called as "a political move to oust Harvey Albond and it worked." Galie said he did not need to check with Murphy before deciding to appoint Albond.

"I really feel Harvey got a raw deal, no ifs, ands or buts. I stayed away from him for two years to see if anything would come out of the investigation and nothing has," Galie said.

Murphy said he asked the investigator handling the case for some sort of resolution at the beginning of this month because the probe has been going on for nearly three years. He said he was told that criminal charges against anyone were unlikely. If the case isn't totally closed now, he said, it would be within a couple of weeks. Murphy said his inquiry was made independent of Galie's appointment, which he said, he didn't know about before Tuesday.

Murphy said he could not comment on whether the investigation turned up anything "questionable." He said the DA's office can only look at whether there is evidence of criminal activity.

"I think (Albond is) very competent to be placed on the agency," Galie said. "He expressed an interest to be placed on the agency because of his background, and he talked to me about it, and I totally agreed with him. This investigation (has) found no wrongdoing. Harvey's been city manager here two times. He's got a solid background in planning, is active in veterans organizations and is a longtime resident of the City of Niagara Falls, and I don't think anyone can criticize his credibility. And, I believe he will be beneficial to the Love Canal and represent the city well."

Albond said he has "always felt that there was nothing at all to the allegations. I would only go to those who made the allegations and question their motives."

Albond said this would not be the first or last time someone used a district attorney's office for their own political purposes. He said he never met with the district attorney or his staff and "I resent tremendously the type of innuendos that have come into play on this. I was discussing the need to deal with the Love Canal and the mayor asked me if I would serve. I agreed that I would be willing to do so. There was obviously a political and personnel problem, and I'm afraid they used their allegations and their innuendos to make it untenable for me to remain as executive director.

"I think, however, that that has nothing to do with my willingness to serve the agency and the city. I'm a planner emeritus of upstate New York as selected by the Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association, a full member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. I have 40 years' experience as a city planner, and I'm pleased to bring that experience to the final planning stages and wind up of the Love Canal. There is probably no one who knows more about Love Canal from the inception of the crisis to the present time than myself."

Albond, who was city director of planning and development for 12 years, served as acting city manager in 1978 and was appointed city manager in 1979. He served in the position for 14 months and then again for one year in 1985-1986. He was the assistant director for planning for Niagara County for about five years prior to being appointed director of the Love Canal agency.

It was Councilwoman-elect Barbara A. Geracitano, during her last term on the Council and as a member of the Love Canal agency at the time, who asked Murphy to launch the investigation and who led the effort to fire Albond.

Mrs. Geracitano -- as outgoing chairwoman of the agency -- requested the probe to investigate allegations of "bid tampering and computer tampering" in January 1995, when complaints were brought to her attention by one or more members of the agency.

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