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Rule would allow vote on ousting IDA leader Kimble seeks change to allow third vote

A resolution will be introduced Tuesday that would allow the Niagara County Legislature to vote every two weeks on removing Henry M. Sloma from the county Industrial Development Agency board.

The proposal by Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, would change the rules of the Legislature to allow unlimited voting on motions to remove members of county boards that serve at the Legislature's pleasure.

It would overturn the opinion of County Attorney Claude A. Joerg, who has ruled the Legislature can't vote on firing Sloma as IDA chairman because the motion to do so, offered by the Democratic minority, already has failed twice this year.

Sloma, one of the Republicans' leading campaign contributors, was chosen by the GOP-led majority caucus to serve on the IDA board. Sloma orchestrated a controversial property tax break for AES Corp., the county's largest property taxpayer, last October.

It will reduce the combined revenue from AES to the county, the Town of Somerset and the Barker Central School District by at least $43.4 million over the 12-year life of the arrangement.

Rule 16 of the Legislature says that once a resolution, local law "or other matter" is defeated, it can be reintroduced only once during that calendar year. The Kimble resolution would create an exception for committee appointments or removals from boards whose members are not chosen for a specific term -- such as the IDA board.

"We've never had this happen before, as far as a legislator being unable to bring up a name for removal from a board more than twice. If a particular individual did something criminal our hands would be tied," Kimble said.

Kimble said Joerg's rulings are politically motivated. When asked if that wasn't also true of her resolution, she said, "No, it's motivated by the fact that we're stuck paying $43.4 million. What happened with the IDA is definitely illegal."

Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said he intends to ship Kimble's resolution directly to the Administration Committee.

Burmaster said, "I have written to Jason Murgia [D-Niagara Falls, chairman of the committee] to do a thorough review of the rules. I would think this would be part of that discussion, not a separate resolution."

Another rule change is on Tuesday's agenda for a vote: a proposal from Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, to prevent measures from being called up for an immediate vote without the sponsor's consent.

Normally, all individual legislators' resolutions are sent to committee unless the sponsor moves for immediate consideration. But at the March 20 meeting, the majority caucus took Apolito by surprise by moving for an immediate vote on his resolution to abolish the patronage post of deputy county treasurer. Apolito wanted it to go to committee, but instead the Republicans killed it.

Apolito also is again introducing a measure to give the City of Lockport a break on property taxes on its raw water supply line from the Niagara River. That much-tabled idea now has a new twist: instead of complete forgiveness, Apolito is proposing that the city's tax payments to the county be frozen at the 2006 level of $63,984.

"I'm willing to face reality. If they turn this one down, it'll look even worse," Apolito said.

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, "Obviously, we would prefer the zero. But any relief is good relief."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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