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Masiello firm due for pact to study homeland security post

The Niagara County Legislature may vote tonight to hire a politically connected consulting and lobbying firm to produce a job description and organizational structure for the authorized but never-filled post of homeland security director.

Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates is to receive a six-month, $30,000 contract for the work, according to a resolution introduced by Legislator Phillip R. "Russ" Rizzo, I-North Tonawanda.

The high-powered firm is headed by former Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, a Democrat, and former Deputy Erie County Executive Carl J. Calabrese, a Republican.

The resolution says the County Legislature believes that a homeland security director is necessary and that he also should oversee the fire coordinator, whose job is state-mandated.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said he's not committed to creating the position. He said Monday that the matter will be studied with the consulting firm and added, "We'll make the recommendation at the end of 2011 with my [tentative] budget."

The Legislature voted in June 2008 to create a Homeland Security Department, as recommended by then-County Manager Gregory D. Lewis. However, the next month, it had second thoughts and voted, 14-4, to bar Lewis from filling the director's job, which was supposed to pay $75,000 a year, until after that year's election.

At the time, the Republicans were running Ernest C. Palmer for sheriff, and the then-Niagara Falls chief of detectives opposed the new department.

However, Palmer lost the election to Democrat James R. Voutour, who said Monday, "I've always supported a homeland security director from Day One."

The duties have fallen largely on John F. Cecula III, the former assistant emergency management director who has been interim emergency management director and fire coordinator since James C. Volkosh retired last year. Chief Sheriff's Deputy Thomas C. Beatty also has played an active role.

Cecula said, "We've been doing homeland security since its inception in the county in 2003. Yes, we get busy at times. I was hoping for the assistant [emergency management] director to be hired, but apparently they've decided to go in another direction."

In 2009, a special panel headed by Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, issued a report supporting a Homeland Security Department.

The Legislature's Community Safety and Security Committee voted a year ago to endorse a job search, but nothing happened. "There was a huge concern about creating a department," the committee's chairman, Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, said Monday. "If we created a department, we would need clerical [staff] and an associate director."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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