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MAYOR, IN WATER POST, BLASTED FOR STAYING ON

Lackawanna Mayor John J. Kuryak's decision to remain in office for the seven months left in his term while taking on a full-time job with the Erie County Water Authority didn't go over well with some City Council members and residents Monday night.

Adding to the bad feelings was the fact Kuryak and two other members of his administration were absent from the meeting.

"This is a slap in the face to residents," Council President Norman L. Polanski Jr. said of the absences.

Even 3rd Ward Councilman Chuck Jaworski, who usually supports the mayor, said he had a lot of questions for the administration that would go unanswered and termed it "very disappointing."

First Ward Councilman Ricardo Estrada said Kuryak would have a conflict of interest holding both jobs because the city has legal arrangements with the Water Authority.

There also are moral and ethical considerations, Estrada said.

He called the absences "an embarrassment to the city."

Resident Gerald S. DePasquale, who was city clerk for more than 28 years and served four years on the Council, said all mayors have been full time in recent history and took leaves from their other jobs when elected.

He said it is a violation of the City Charter and Administrative Code to hold an outside job that conflicts with official duties, which he said is the case with Kuryak going to work with the Water Authority next Tuesday.

Residents "expect nothing less than a full-time mayor. To not honor these people is an abomination and a betrayal of their trust," DePasquale said.

Kuryak is expected to attend Council sessions because he doubles as the city engineer, not because he is mayor.

He was playing softball Monday night and, interviewed at the game, said there was nothing on the agenda that required his attention.

City Attorney Patricia Deren was absent due to a family illness, and Charles Katra, city treasurer, was on vacation.

Kuryak has said he will perform his mayoral duties at night and on weekends and said it would not be fair to Polanski to have to assume the mayor's duties while also holding an outside job and running for mayor himself.

Kuryak said there would not be a conflict of interest because there are no contracts between the city and authority.

"We do some projects together, but that's not a conflict," he said.

He said the comments by DePasquale, who was defeated by Jaworski in 2001, were politically motivated.

"Jerry wants people in office he can control," Kuryak said.

Meanwhile, Jaworski announced prior to the meeting that he will not be a candidate for Council president after all.

He said he is withdrawing from the race because staying in would mean that four of the five councilmen were either running for mayor or Council president, "and that's too disruptive . . . We don't need all that bickering. I just want to do my job as councilman."

Jaworski said his plan now is to seek re-election when his term expires in two years.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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