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SUIT AGAINST IDA'S TAX BREAKS IS WITHDRAWN

Donald G. Hobel has dropped his federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency's tax exemption policy.

County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said he's considering filing suit against Hobel to recover legal fees the county paid fighting the suit, which he called "frivolous."

Joerg said the county paid $1,650 to Daniel A. Spitzer of the Buffalo law firm of Hodgson Russ to research and compile a brief responding to Hobel's claims that the IDA tax breaks violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of a republican government and equal protection under the laws.

"I haven't yet determined whether I'm going to sue Mr. Hobel for costs of this frivolous litigation," Joerg said Friday. "I don't understand why the county taxpayers should have to bear the cost of a citizen's frivolity, especially when he claims to be a knowing citizen."

"I'll see what happens," said Hobel, a Wheatfield resident who was acting as his own attorney.

He sent a memorandum to the court Wednesday, withdrawing his suit, which was filed in July. The case had been scheduled for a Nov. 15 hearing.

Hobel wrote that he agreed with Spitzer's argument that "his complaint should not lie against the county but against New York State." That's because the state passed legislation that created the IDA.

But Hobel said in an interview that he wasn't fully convinced by Spitzer. "That's under his version of the constitution, not mine," he said.

He said the real problem he faced was that Spitzer's brief included "six or eight citations that would take a great deal of research to ferret out. That's when you need a lawyer."

He said he wrote to two local attorneys seeking their aid but received no reply, and "unsuccessfully sought counsel through the Erie County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association."

Hobel, who is a regular spectator and speaker at IDA and County Legislature meetings, wouldn't commit to suing the state, as Spitzer suggested. "That's down the line," he said. "I learned something because of the materials supplied by Spitzer that I may be able to use in the future."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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