Kyle R. Andrews takes office as Niagara County treasurer today, planning to clean up an office whose former occupant left under a cloud.
"Priority No. 1 is getting things moving aggressively and swiftly on reforming the public administrator function in Niagara County," said Andrews, a Wilson Democrat.
He resigned his seat in the County Legislature on Monday upon learning that Gov. David A. Paterson had appointed him to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of David S. Broderick.
Broderick, a Lewiston Republican who held the seat for 37 years, was the target of a scathing audit issued Friday by the state comptroller's office.
It accused Broderick, who resigned in January, of using the treasurer's side job of administering estates of people who die without wills to steer business to family and friends while selling estate assets at lower-than-appraised values, leaving potential heirs with smaller inheritances than they might otherwise have achieved.
But the work was lucrative for Broderick: He collected $306,415 in commissions from 2003 to 2008, the audit said. The commissions are based on a percentage of the estate and are set by state law.
Now that work falls to Andrews, who at age 29 is believed to be the youngest countywide officeholder in Niagara County history.
"There's certainly a list of recommendations that the state comptroller made," Andrews said. "We're going to make the public administrator function more equitable, efficient and transparent."
Last November, Andrews announced that he was running for treasurer this year; now he will do so as the incumbent.
In a campaign news release in January, Andrews said that if he became treasurer, his relatives and those of all the office's employees and lawyers would be barred from working for the office as outside vendors. He said he would also bar the outsourcing of work to any companies in which relatives of the treasurer or his employees have "a substantial financial stake."
Andrews also said he would place each estate's funds in individual interest-bearing accounts to prevent them from being mixed together and will make it easier for the public to review estate records and names of vendors.
County Republican Party Chairman Michael J. Norris said no one has come forward to seek the GOP nomination for treasurer. "We're still asking the public to submit a resume," Norris said.
Andrews has a good relationship with the GOP, which has not run a candidate against him for his Legislature seat since his first victory in 2001. The Republicans endorsed him in 2009.
Andrews inherits the $82,775 salary that Broderick was supposed to have this year. The pay was set in a local law passed by the County Legislature in 2007, which referred only to the office, not to Broderick by name.
Andrews is a captain in the Army Reserve, currently serving in the Rochester-based 98th Division as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps. Andrews, formerly an attorney with the Harris Beach law firm, recently opened a private practice and has been serving as Wilson town attorney.
He said he will hold a staff meeting this morning and will take some time before making any personnel moves.
Meanwhile, Andrews' departure from the Legislature will likely give the Republican-led majority caucus its 15th seat in the 19-member body. The Legislature changed the law in January to allow anyone to be appointed to a midterm vacancy in its ranks; before that, the appointee had to be a member of the same party as the former lawmaker.
Recent vacancies have been filled after open interviews by a committee of legislators.
"I assume we'll follow the same procedure we followed before, but I don't want to speak for the Legislature," said Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport.
Andrews represented the 14th District, covering Wilson, Cambria and western Newfane.