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Some on IDA board may be sacrificed Effort to appease public on AES

The Niagara County Legislature majority may offer one or more Industrial Development Agency board members as a sacrifice to appease voters angry over the tax break granted by the IDA to AES Corp.
After beating back another effort by the Democratic minority Tuesday to fire IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma, Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove said, "We may have some other names we'd like to consider. We're going to contemplate that over the next couple of days."

Updegrove, R-Lockport, said a party caucus Saturday might settle the issue. He wouldn't say which IDA members might be placed on the chopping block, but it appears it won't be Sloma.
Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, presented a motion to fire Sloma and Niagara USA Chamber President Thomas J. Kraus from the IDA board.
County Attorney Claude A. Joerg reiterated his ruling from a previous meeting that since motions to fire Sloma already have failed twice, that can't be voted on again this year.
"It's a done decision," Joerg said.
"I've never known that a member of a board that serves at our pleasure is ever a done decision," Kimble replied. She stuck with her motion to fire Kraus, but after a brief closed-door caucus, the Republican-led majority tabled the motion.
Most of Tuesday's meeting was devoted to rehashing the March 20 meeting, as Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster attempted to explain his actions in ejecting the entire audience that night after it applauded a verbal attack on Sloma by acting Barker Central School Business Manager William R. Leardini.
Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said criticism of people who aren't public employees isn't allowed during the public comment period -- and IDA board members, although appointed by the Legislature, technically are not public employees.
"There appears to be a lack of understanding or lack of information to the public about the adopted rules of the Legislature," Burmaster said. "What transpired at the last meeting was an effort to restore order and decorum."
Burmaster said his move to throw out the entire audience was not an endorsement of the AES payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.
Tuesday's audience of more than 40 seemed to make sure to applaud every speaker at least as long as it did March 20. This time Burmaster did not use his gavel as the speakers continued to attack the IDA.
Leardini came back for more. He asked, "How many of your constituents are pleading with you to go forward with this AES PILOT? The answer is none, and you know it."
William Snelgrove of Lockport said, "Two weeks ago tonight, our elected officials exhibited their concern for the people who put them in office," he said. "Remember in November: Elect those who will represent the people, not the party."
Margie Swan of Cambria demanded that Sloma be brought before the Legislature to explain himself. Burmaster said Sloma had been invited and refused to appear.
"But you're his boss," Swan replied, and the crowd applauded.
Also Tuesday, a rules amendment, barring rival lawmakers from moving for immediate action on opponents' resolutions without the sponsor's permission, was sent to committee.
Normally, a resolution is sent to committee unless the sponsor moves for immediate consideration.
At the March 20 meeting, however, the Legislature's Republican-led majority called for an immediate vote on a Democratic resolution to abolish the position of deputy county treasurer and defeated it, even though the sponsor, Legislator Harry J. Apolito, wanted it to go to committee.
Apolito and Democratic colleagues Sean J. O'Connor and Renae Kimble of Niagara Falls sponsored Tuesday's amendment to prevent such actions in the future.
Two weeks ago, Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, charged that such an action was unprecedented.
Tuesday, Legislator Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, presented fruits of his research in Legislature records, showing two instances in 1994 when a Democratic majority moved for immediate action on Republican resolutions for the sake of voting them down.
Virtuoso didn't attend Tuesday, but Needler said, "I'm expecting Mr. Virtuoso to be the man that he is and stand up in two weeks and apologize to the majority caucus."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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