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City's longtime anti-graffiti chief is departing

Buffalo's top graffiti buster will call it quits next month, ending a City Hall career that spans three decades.

But James E. Pavel insists his decision to retire in mid-January has nothing to do with criticism he faced from Mayor Byron W. Brown. He said he is leaving his $51,200-a-year job so he can devote more time to cleanup efforts through a group called Keep Western New York Beautiful, and to help in a planned countywide effort to replant trees in the wake of the October storm.

On at least two occasions in recent months, Brown and other members of the CitiStat accountability team have complained about Pavel's anti-graffiti efforts. In September, First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey even warned Pavel that he could be ousted if he did not become more responsive.

Pavel has been the city's director of support services under mayors James D. Griffin, Anthony M. Masiello and Brown. Earlier this year, Brown put him in charge of mapping out a war on graffiti. While Pavel acknowledges that there is a long way to go, he is convinced his efforts had a positive impact. "I have nothing to be embarrassed about," he said Tuesday. "I definitely believe there's less graffiti in the city now than there was a year ago."

Peter K. Cutler, Brown's communications director, said the mayor's office has yet to receive formal notification that Pavel is leaving.

"We don't comment on matters that haven't been formally confirmed," Cutler said.

Pavel has been lauded by some Common Council members and other officials for helping to improve conditions in neighborhoods. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., who has worked with Pavel for years, described him as accessible and dedicated. But Golombek added that in Pavel's job, it is tough to win unanimous praise.

"You're not going to make everyone happy all the time," Golombek said. "If you have 100 graffiti cases over a weekend, and you take care of 80 percent of them, some people aren't going to be satisfied."

Brown has not yet announced Pavel's successor. But in a recent CitiStat meeting, Casey said that there are numerous potential applicants.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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