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The first concerted action against the slim City Council majority that forced the resignation of popular City Manager Robert L. Knabel surfaced Saturday with a renewed charge that the five incumbents have violated the City Charter.

Led by five former Council members, petitions are being circulated demanding that the City Council president:

Appoint an independent counsel to render a decision on alleged charter violations and recommend appropriate action.

Investigate charges of ethics violations by certain Council members.

Ask the Orleans County district attorney to investigate allegations that a current Council member may have committed a crime.

Carry a message to the Council that Knabel be reinstated immediately.

Knabel's resignation is effective Oct. 31, although he will remain on the payroll as a consultant until Jan. 1.

The five spearheading the petition effort are Bruce R. Tehan, a former Council president, and former Councilmen Barry W. Bower, John J. Hodgins, Catherine K. Roth and Kenneth F. Witt.

The current Council members who are accused of charter violations and "illegal meetings and ethics violations" are Kathy Briggs and Henry E. Moscicki, who joined the Council this year, and ward Council members Rose Mary Christian, Edward DeJaneiro Jr. and Andrew D. Lista.

None of them has commented on the accusations.

A letter accompanying the petitions states that a "group of confused buffoons has caused the loss of our city attorney with six years' experience and our city manager with four years."

Knabel, the letter adds, "is universally regarded as an excellent manager who has improved employee moral, more than tripled the city's fund balance and helped to reduce taxes."

The former Council members say they are concerned that to avoid a libel suit the five current Council members agreed to a separation agreement that will cost the city taxpayers about $125,000.

The five who pursued Knabel's ouster claim the manager failed to execute all Council policies, neglected to pass on Council concerns to the city's Charter Review Commission and failed to take direction from the majority of the Council.

Knabel's resignation was announced at Monday's Council meeting, at which 20 businessmen and city workers urged the Council to reconsider. One speaker, Hodgins, chairman of the Charter Review Commission, stated flatly that the charge that Knabel failed to pass on concerns "is utterly false."

The petitions are to be collected Sept. 25 and presented to Council President George A. Spinnegan. Knabel came here in October 1996 after working as city manager in Galesburg, Ill. He has made no public comments on the charges against him.

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