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GOP MOVES IN PARKS DEPT. UNDER SCRUTINY

Niagara County Parks Commissioner Joseph B. Penale said Tuesday he will likely be replaced by Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg when the GOP takes control of the County Legislature next week.

However, Penale noted no one has yet directly contacted him about his status. "I'm not really sure it's a dismissal yet," he said, holding out "the slight possibility" the reports could be wrong.

That possibility was also held out by Legislator Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria, the incoming Majority Leader, who said, "We're going to talk to these people this week. We're looking at possible restructurings in the Parks Department."

Outgoing Legislature Chairman Sean J. O'Connor, D-Niagara Falls, complained that he was not informed about the possible ouster of Penale, even though the Republicans tapped O'Connor to head the Parks Committee in the new Legislature, the only Democrat to receive a committee chairmanship.

"I think this is a courtesy," O'Connor said. He said he had written to incoming Chairman Gerald E. Meal, R-Royalton, with copies to all other legislators, requesting that Democrats be shown the resumes of all candidates for department head positions.

O'Connor said he is concerned about the qualifications of some of the names surfacing in the political rumor mill for various positions.

Meal said of O'Connor's request, "I don't think it's necessary. All they want to do is make problems for the people we appoint. Evidently, they don't think we can pick good people."

Penale is among several current county officials whose jobs are on the line in the party overturn at the Legislature, where the former Democratic majority will be converted to an 11-8 Republican edge when the newly elected lawmakers convene next Tuesday.

"I don't want it to seem like we're throwing these people out in the snow," Mrs. Urtel said. "We don't want to do this irresponsibly. We don't want to jump the gun. We respect their years of service." She said the Republicans would stick to their original plan of making no personnel announcements until next Tuesday.

The parks position will pay $54,045 for 1998. Horanburg, who has been Newfane supervisor since 1985, did not return a telephone call seeking his comment. His 1997 supervisor's salary was $26,922, scheduled to increase to $27,730 in 1998.

Penale has been commissioner for the past three years, and has worked in the Parks Department for 22 years. "I've been here half my life," he said. He added he has no bumping rights to another job in the department, and the apparent GOP move means he will be unemployed.

"If this does happen, I'll probably move out of the area," said Penale, a registered Democrat who has not played any active role in county politics.

Penale is a lifelong county resident, a Niagara Falls native now living in Lockport. He is married with two daughters, ages 5 and 3. Penale, 46, observed that in terms of his job prospects, his age puts him "right in that no-hire zone."

Meanwhile, Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, said Tuesday he will "probably" be staying as a member of the Industrial Development Agency board of directors, but many of his colleagues will not. Meal confirmed that.

"I wish we could keep the whole board, but that's not possible," said Villani, who changed parties from Democratic to Republican last month.

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