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Lockport mayor dismisses highways and parks chief Position eliminated as cost-cutting move; city's engineering director to assume duties

Highways and Parks Superintendent Michael E. Hoffman was dismissed by Mayor Michael W. Tucker late Thursday in what the mayor said was a cost-cutting move.

"It's part of the downsizing. We're trying to do more with less," Tucker said Friday.

He gave Hoffman's duties to city Engineering Director Norman D. Allen, effective immediately.

Tucker said, "I told Mike this wasn't a performance-based decision. We eliminated his job. He had no place to go."

Hoffman, who would have marked five years on the job next month, remains on the payroll until Wednesday, when the Common Council is to vote on cutting his job out of the budget. He was to have earned $66,180 this year.

The Council had hired Richard Rising of the Harris Beach law firm as a consultant last year to assist with a City Hall reorganization brought on by the large number of vacancies created by a state early-retirement incentive in October.

Rising has had many meetings with city officials -- but none with Hoffman, the fired department head said Friday.

"I met him once for two minutes. I introduced myself and shook his hand. That was the extent of our conversation," Hoffman said.

While he said he was surprised by the layoff, Allen said Tucker "has been talking to me about it for some time."

Allen said he has been promised a raise, although the amount isn't settled. He was to have been paid $68,878 this year.

Tucker said he sees Allen as head of an overall public works operation. He said some further changes may be coming, including shifting some of the water and sewer operations to Allen.

The city is sharing its director of utilities, Paula M. Sattelberg, with the City of North Tonawanda. Tucker said that will continue.

Allen said, "I was concerned it would be a daunting task, but I'll do the best I can."

He said there has been discussion about giving him more staff in the engineering office. He requested an engineering technician for this year, but the Council deleted that from the budget.

Hoffman said Tucker asked him not to come to work any more, even though he's still on the payroll until the Council votes.

"My attorney is objecting to that because there's been no disciplinary action," Hoffman said. He wouldn't identify the lawyer or say if he has a lawsuit planned.

Tucker said the city can control how many people work for it. Hoffman was vice president of the city's department head union, whose membership is now down to four.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at large, said he will vote Wednesday to bring Hoffman back. He charged that some unhappy Highways and Parks employees have been out to get Hoffman and got the ear of the mayor.

"I think [Hoffman] has done a real good job for the city," Kibler said.

Kibler said problems may show up on the city's streets as soon as the next snowfall.

"To do it at this time, with this winter weather coming?" Kibler asked. "You've got one foreman out there, and that's putting a lot of pressure on him. Norm's not ready for this."

Council President Richelle J. Pasceri and Alderman Andrew D. Chapman said they support Tucker's move.

"I think it's a smart decision in the overall reconstruction," said Chapman, R-4th Ward.

"This is so not personal. I think the world of Mike Hoffman," said Pasceri, R-1st Ward. "Norm has proven himself. He's done a terrific job and he's totally capable."


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