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Justice Dept. tries to block wage payout

The U.S. Justice Department renewed efforts Wednesday to block a state court from approving payment of wages owed to 85 former employees of the government-closed St. Augustine Center.

A week ago, State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek refused to permit the Internal Revenue Service to intervene in the court case, which is aimed at closing the human services center's financial books and paying the back wages.

Wednesday, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge John V. Elfvin to quash that case, claiming that it "threatens to impair the ability of the U.S. to enforce its tax liens."

In its latest legal effort, the Justice Department has filed a federal civil action against State Supreme Court in Erie County, the state Labor Department and Adam W. Perry, the Buffalo attorney Michalek named last year to serve as receiver to close the books on the center.

"I'm very disappointed that the government is attempting to deny the employees wages that they earned" in closing down the center and ensuring all its clients were properly placed with other Buffalo-area human services agencies, Perry said.

Last February, Michalek ordered the shutdown of the debt-plagued nonprofit agency, which for decades had served Buffalo's black community.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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