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Despite rumors, Brown plans to stay; Turned down state job to remain in City Hall

For months, the talk around City Hall in Buffalo to the state Capitol in Albany has been that Byron W. Brown wanted to leave the mayor's office.

One source said the two-term chief executive was "itching" to leave.

But when the Cuomo administration last month offered Brown a job as state commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal, the mayor turned it down, according to several sources.

That may stem from Brown's burgeoning role as adviser to the new governor, and also because of a visit to the White House that reinforced his belief that he has a crucial role as mayor of Buffalo.

Asked last week about his plans, Brown would not comment. But those close to him insist that turning down the Cuomo offer demonstrates he is not anxious to leave City Hall.

Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, a close personal friend and political ally, confirmed that Brown discussed the job with the Cuomo administration. Though she is not among those indicating the mayor's desire to move on, the Buffalo Democrat said she also has heard talk about Brown leaving over the past several weeks.

"The last time I heard it so strong, I called the mayor and said, 'What's this about you leaving to join the Cuomo administration?' " Peoples-Stokes said. "He says there's nothing further from the truth.

"I don't think he's interested in leaving," she added. "I think there are some things he wants to complete. And I don't think he wants to travel away from home."

The Assembly Democrat said she talked to Brown again last week, and the topic did not come up. Speculation over his possible departure stems from people in Buffalo looking to advance their own political careers, she said.

"A lot of people would love to see him go for political reasons, but that's not the majority of the people of Buffalo," she said.

Brown seriously considered the Cuomo administration offer to head the agency that oversees finance, development and preservation of housing, according to numerous sources. They also insist that the mayor has not sought any offers that occasionally come his way, including the latest.

"He had a chance but declined," said one source with knowledge of the situation. "He thought about it for about two weeks."

After then-gubernatorial nominee Andrew M. Cuomo passed him over last year for lieutenant governor in favor of Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy, sources say Brown appeared less than enthusiastic about assisting the Cuomo effort and was noticeably absent from several Cuomo campaign events.

But after a frosty relationship at the start of last year's campaign, Brown has since emerged as a key adviser to Cuomo. By the end of the campaign, the sources said, the mayor had become a valuable ally. And when Cuomo made his first post-election visit to Buffalo as governor-elect in November, he made a beeline to Brown's City Hall office.

"Byron has been phenomenally helpful in a lot of small ways," said one top Democrat. "The relationship is back on track considerably."

One source also said President Obama's Feb. 6 invitation to Brown to watch the Super Bowl at the White House helped him refocus on his job as mayor, reminding him of the importance of the position and the influence it can wield.

Should Brown ever resign his post, the City Charter calls for the Council president -- currently David A. Franczyk -- to succeed him as mayor.

Cuomo last month nominated Darryl Towns, a respected Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, for the housing post.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com and tprecious@buffnews.com