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The candidates for Niagara County historian will be reinterviewed next month with an eye toward choosing one of them for a probationary appointment.

But at the same time, the county is investigating the legality of changing the historian's job title to "heritage services officer" and placing the person under the county clerk instead of being an independent department head.

The post, which paid $32,099 last year, has been vacant since November, when David L. Dickinson of Newfane was ousted after failing to score in the top three on a state Civil Service exam for the job he had held since January 2000.

In his tenure, Dickinson made a hit with legislators of both parties as well as fellow historians. He organized special events, including a 175th anniversary celebration for the Erie Canal that garnered wide publicity, and was able to show that he brought in revenue for the county through service to researchers.

Dickinson challenged the legitimacy of the exam, arguing it did not accurately reflect his job description. He also said previous historians didn't take a written test but were judged competitively on their qualifications. But the state Civil Service Department didn't accept his complaints.

The Legislature kept Dickinson on as long as it could while local and state historians rallied to his defense, but finally Personnel Officer Harvey N. Albond ordered Dickinson's salary stopped. Dickinson turned in his keys Nov. 8.

The plan is to reinterview as many of the top six finishers on the Civil Service exam who are still interested in the job. The lawmakers were told that one of them withdrew, but Albond said a withdrawal has to be done in writing, and it wasn't.

Albond said those still on the list will be eligible for another interview, to be conducted by the Administration Committee. The field, except for Dickinson, who was tied for fifth place, so underwhelmed the committee at interviews last fall that it declined to hire any of them.

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