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Brown allies lose leadership posts

Buffalo's two longest-tenured lawmakers are expected to snare key leadership posts on the Common Council, spelling defeat for forces allied with Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Under a deal forged between five of the nine lawmakers, David A. Franczyk would continue to serve as Council President when a reorganization occurs in January. Lovejoy representative Richard A. Fontana would become majority leader.

South Council Member Michael P. Kearns, one of Brown's harshest Council critics, is in line to become president pro tempore, replacing mayoral ally Bonnie E. Russell of University.

A four-member Council faction that is allied with Brown failed to hatch an agreement that would have made one of its members either president or majority leader. Brown and First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey have had meetings in recent weeks with lawmakers. Wednesday, the Brown-friendly faction offered to support Fontana for president if he agreed to vote for Ellicott representative Brian C. Davis as majority leader. Fontana told The Buffalo News the offer came too late -- he had already committed to supporting Franczyk.

"There's a time element in every process. You can't just hit the rewind button and go back on your commitments," said Fontana, who is in line to replace the retiring Dominic J. Bonifacio as majority leader.

Franczyk declined to discuss the behind-the-scenes maneuvers. But he said his goal is to foster "principled independence" on the Council.

"I'm not interested in fighting with the mayor, but I'm definitely not going to call him and ask him how I should vote on issues," Franczyk said.

The newest incoming Council member played a decisive role. David A. Rivera, who won the Niagara seat, was courted by both sides. Rivera, a Buffalo police officer, said he committed to supporting the Franczyk-Fontana-Kearns lineup.

"I think the group I've aligned with is the most independent of the groups," Rivera said Thursday. "And while we're going to be independent, the group is also going to work with the mayor to get things done."

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., one of the mayor's closest Council allies, said he still holds out hope for an eleventh-hour compromise that would see Davis elected majority leader. But Golombek acknowledged that at this juncture, it appears the opposing faction has lined up sufficient votes.

Brown's efforts to gain political clout on the Council fizzled in the September primaries when candidates he supported in the Delaware and Niagara districts lost their races. Michael J. LoCurto easily won re-election in Delaware, while Rivera won in Niagara. Both are allies of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, who sometimes clashes with Brown.

LoCurto also signed a non-binding document supporting the Franczyk-Fontana ticket.

Peter K. Cutler, Brown's communications chief, said the administration had no comment on the Council leadership struggles.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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