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Partisan politics alleged in appointing treasurer

Amid allegations of partisan politics, the Common Council appointed a 27-year-old financial analyst Tuesday night to the post of North Tonawanda treasurer.

The 3-2 vote to hire Robert G. Ortt, a North Tonawanda Republican, was split along party lines, with the Republican majority carrying the day.

But Council members insisted political affiliations did not play a role in selecting a successor to Leslie J. Stolzenfels, a Republican who stepped down after 24 years to become deputy treasurer of Niagara County.

The city treasurer position pays about $59,000 a year.

Ortt was selected from among three candidates. A personal financial analyst with Primerica Financial Services, he will serve as treasurer until elections are held in November.

The two Democrats on the Council said they did not vote for Ortt because Melissa A. Kenney, a senior accountant with Benderson Development Co., had more experience and is better qualified for the position. Kenney is a Democrat.

First Ward Alderman Phillip Rizzo said after reading the resumes, he voted for experience over youth and charisma.

"She has the experience to be able to step right in and do the job from Day One," Rizzo said. "I had no idea she was a Democrat; it made absolutely no difference."

Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera said Ortt lacks accounting and budgeting experience and was picked because of his political party affiliation.

Council President Brett Sommer, who is a Republican, said Ortt is well qualified for the post, which is more focused on revenue than accounting, because Ortt's specialty is revenue and investment.

Niagara County Republic Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, who attended the meeting, spoke in support of hiring Ortt. He said Ortt plans to extend operating hours and adapt technology to make the office run more efficiently.

Ortt begins the job today.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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