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MOVE TO EVICT INCUMBENTS ROCKS COUNCIL

The 4-month-old campaign by five former City Council members to evict five incumbents for alleged City Charter violations brought a new wave of charges and countercharges during a brief Council meeting Monday.

Former Councilman Kenneth F. Witt, the only one of the five to appear at the meeting, insisted that "action must be taken and will be taken." He reiterated the charge that the five sitting members may have violated their oaths of office.

He said that he wanted to "document" the Council's "positive contributions" since Jan. 1. But after several moments of silence during his five-minute presentation, he added: "I can't think of any."

He then accused the Council's 5-4 majority of forcing the resignation of the city manager, whom he praised as very competent.

Council President George A. Spinnegan acknowledged after the meeting the receipt of an estimated 550 signatures on petitions circulated by the former officials. The petitions seek an independent counsel to investigate the possible charter violations and the reinstatement of City Manager Robert L. Knabel, who resigned last week.

Spinnegan said he would act before the close of business Friday. He cited two possible steps, a review of the charges by the state attorney general, and one by the New York State Council of Mayors.

In a letter to the Council, D. Michael Murray, attorney for the five incumbents, called the charges "ridiculous" and said the Council president has no authority to appoint an independent counsel without Council approval, which, he added, "is unlikely, given the 5-4 split."

After the meeting, Witt said the former councilmen "have an attorney, and if he says the five sitting members violated the charter, they are out."

He added that if the panel is not formed, "we will sue the city."

The charges were originally aired at two Council meetings in May. When there was no response, a letter detailing the charges was sent in mid-August.

Asked Witt: "Why has there been no response?"

Witt's allies are former Council President Bruce R. Tehan and ward members Barry W. Bower, John J. Hodgins and Catherine K. Roth. The five accused of charter violations, dealing with the majority's rejection of a water pact with the county that the Council had previously approved, and charges that the city manager failed to heed Council's directions, are Kathleen Briggs, Rose Mary Christian, Edward DeJaneiro Jr., Andrew D. Lista and Henry E. Moscicki.

The only comment Monday came from Christian, who said, "His (petition drive) irritates me no end."

She urged that stores displaying the petitions "be boycotted." When she tried to name the businesses, she was overruled by Spinnegan. Most of the two-dozen petitions were apparently circulated by the five former Council members and some supporters and businessmen.

On another issue, the Council, in a 7-1 vote, approved four resolutions allowing a cleanup and remedial steps at the city-Town of Batavia landfill on Kelsey Road. The Town Board gave its approval at a special meeting last week.

The complicated pacts, years in the making, involve the city, town, NL Industries, several other local firms and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The city's share of the cleanup is estimated at $1.4 million. The cost of a 30-year maintenance contract, estimated at $1.6 million, will be shared by the city and town on a 75-25 percent ratio, with the city paying the larger share.

Councilman J. Peter Garlock cast the lone no vote.

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