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Chief of Niagara bridge agency won't explain ouster

The head of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission refused to shed any light Thursday on the sudden ouster of Thomas E. Garlock as general manager of the binational authority.

Janice A. Thomson, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., chairwoman of the commission, was intractable on the matter before a meeting of The Buffalo News Editorial Board.

"It's a personnel issue, and we are bound by Ontario law and our own strict policy," she said.

Thomson said the commission doesn't have to comply with two Freedom of Information requests filed by The News.

"The Freedom of Information Act is a U.S. federal law that applies to U.S. federal agencies," she said, "and we are not a U.S. federal agency."

Speculation has swirled around Garlock's July 21 departure from the commission, which operates the Rainbow, Whirlpool Rapids and Lewiston-Queenston bridges.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, is demanding to know the details of Garlock's severance package, rumored to be "worth hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Maziarz said Thursday that he took the matter to Gov. David A. Paterson and that the governor told him in a phone call last week he would "specifically look into this incident."

The four American commissioners on the eight-member board are appointed by the governor and the other four by the premier of Ontario.

"The governor agreed with me that commissioners who use public funds should be transparent and that the information should be disclosed," Maziarz said.

Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, said Thursday that in certain private and confidential matters, his organization also is exempt from the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and the Dominion of Canada Access to Information Act, a policy that has been endorsed by the New York State comptroller's office.

Privacy laws aside, the Peace Bridge Authority has one major difference with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission: Meetings of the Peace Bridge board of directors are open to the public and the news medial, while those of the Falls commission are not.


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