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VIRTUOSO PLANS LEGAL ACTION TO FIGHT JOB ELIMINATION

Dennis F. Virtuoso said Monday he will pursue legal action to keep his $54,000-a-year job as the city's director of environmental services and inspections. The job apparently has been eliminated by the City Council.

The Council's action became official Monday, when the city received notice that the action had been filed with the state secretary of state. The Council eliminated Virtuoso's job in a consolidation move that merged inspections duties with the engineering department and environmental services with planning and economic development. The Council said the move was taken as a cost-saving measure.

Besides being a city department head, Virtuoso is a Niagara County legislator representing a portion of the city. Mayor James C. Galie and Virtuoso claim the Council's action to combine departments and to eliminate Virtuoso's city job is political. Virtuoso and Galie are both Democrats, as are six of seven Council members.

"They're putting me through hell and my family through hell and I'm just not going to stand for it anymore," he said.

Virtuoso said Council members never spoke to him nor to Kevin P. O'Brien, director of engineering, about whether the move was feasible or would save money. O'Brien has opposed the merger. The Council has considered ways to make inspections more cost-efficient for several years.

Virtuoso said he won't seek monetary damages. He said he just wants to get back a job for which he said he had worked his way up through the ranks.

Neither Mayor James C. Galie nor City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino could be reached to comment Monday. But Galie said earlier that he, too, would seek every legal remedy open to him to stop the Council's plan from taking effect. Galie took the Council to court once before on the matter, getting a ruling from State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline M. Koshian in January that the Council had acted illegally by removing the job from the city budget before going through a legislative process that is required under the City Charter.

Council Chairman Vince V. Anello said the Council had begun that legislative process in November before taking the budget action. After Justice Koshian's ruling, the Council restarted the process.

Monday, Anello said the next move is up to the Galie administration.

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